I have seen the future at CUCOH–and finished NaNoWriMo!

I have seen the future. Bright, hard-working, friendly, and a lot of fun.

The first time I applied to Queen’s for my undergrad degree, they took a bunch of us on tour, and some students yelled, “Sub-frosh! Sub-frosh!” at us. (I laughed. Queen’s is famous for its school spirit.) The second time, I was applying for medical school,

The third time, coordinator David Wiercigroch invited me to speak at the 10th Anniversary of the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on Healthcare (CUCOH).

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I wish CUCOH had been around when I was applying to med school. It’s for anyone interested in health care, including nurses, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and future health care policy analysts (hi, Emily), but it’s pretty amazing to get a weekend crash course in anatomy, touching and asking questions about cadavers as well as extensive specimens in the enormous anatomy museum. I also would’ve liked to check out the casting workshop and the first aid mass casualty simulation.

Airway Management Trainers - rotated

I love when people send me pictures like this. It makes me feel cool.

Meanwhile, I taught the intubation workshop. After a quick overview of the seven P’s, customized by me, they learned how to bag, how to insert oral airways, how to intubate a dummy, and a few got to use alternate devices (the straight blade, the bougie, and the laryngeal mask airway—with thanks to the Glengarry Memorial Hospital and Dr. Bob Reddoch for adding to the equipment. Bob personally dropped off the LMA’s at my house before I drove to Kingston). We could only take 16 people for each of two sessions, and later I heard that at least 20 extra people lined up each time, asking if there were any extra spots. The lucky few who made it all successfully bagged and intubated. One of the guys, walking out, said, “That was awesome.” Slides here if Slideshare doesn’t work on your device.

But would anyone show up to my seminar, The Creative Doctor? I’d agreed to switch to the 4 p.m. slot to accommodate another speaker, but the end of the day, when everyone’s tired…uh oh.

Just a handful of people showed up at first (thanks, Sarah, Alice, Airiss, Sissi & Brandon!), but once the other sessions let out, the theatre filled up, and a few people even ended up standing or sitting in aisles.

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After Tiffany kindly introduced me, I said, “Well, anyone who knows me knows that I’m crazy” and brought out the fortuneteller/cootie catcher I’d made for my seminar at the Brantford Public Library (slides here). Game on!

I worked through four different sets of slides, each touching on a different aspect of creativity, such as a different approach to emergency medicine:

creativity in my writing;

how other health care practitioners have sought to balance their interests, including doctors (William Carlos Williams & CJ Lyons; my friends Mike Ko, Michael Sanatani, Karen Chien and Jennifer Wong), nurses (such as NYT bestsellers Jeanne Ray and Elizabeth Berg), and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs. Slide link here.

I ended with the pros and cons of leading a double life in health sciences and the arts, because it ain’t all roses, but the roses you do get smell pretty sweet. Slide here:

I left 15 minutes for questions, and I was impressed at the range: everything from the practical (“How do you do this with two kids?”; “Give me an example of a creative reaction to a stressful situation”; “What’s a locum?”; “Why did you make your name lower case on some of your books?”) to “Do you sleep?”

At the end, I gave away prizes: CODE BLUES to Sereen, THE MOST UNFEELING DOCTOR IN THE WORLD to Nadia, and Kyo got the “mystery prize”: my original med school stethoscope, which I’d recently replaced. Unfortunately, the book to sign up for the draw hadn’t made its way around the room properly, and I ended up having to e-mail two prizewinners after the fact. One didn’t get the message until she was already on the road. Oops.

Then I answered a few questions and posed for a few selfies. ’Cause autographs are old school, although I did sign Grace’s newly-made cast!




This is the worst pic of me, so I made it small even though everyone else looks good. Note to self: chin down!


She sings opera!


I dragged my eight-year-old son, Max, to the banquet. He was a hit, freely answering questions from the keynote speaker, Dr. Peter Lin, e.g. “What is this?” “A zebra!” (Correct.) “How might this patient have died?” “Someone put a rope around his neck and choked him to death.” (Not how the case panned out, but the most off the charts answer. Aww.)

One of the delegates even knew what NaNoWriMo was. BTW, I did pass the 50,000 word mark Sunday morning, before I did the anatomy workshop. I also took my kids to the indoor water park on both days, in between teaching the next generation how to save lives while preserving their own.

The best part about any conference is rubbing shoulders with people who energize you. And here I was, surrounded by smart, dedicated, happy future health practitioners while my family relaxed at the water park at the Ambassador’s Hotel. Yay! Thank you so much to David and the rest of the CUCOH team for inviting me.

As Lincoln Steffens said, “I have seen the future, and it works.”

P.S. Trying to finalize the slides before I send the message out. Thanks for all the sign-ups to my list. I apologize in advance if your e-mail bounces, because sometimes it’s not clear if it’s a 1 or an l, for example (Queen’s–what’s up with those crazy alphanumeric addresses?). You can blame my eyes if you want. 🙂 But seriously, thanks for coming out, thanks for signing up, and thanks for the feedback! I’ll add the wave video later.



They had a photo booth at the dinner. Anastasia is enjoying the mask, the boa, and a Captain America shield.