After my heart attack, while I was deep in the throes of a truly crippling depression, my doctor referred me to a cognitive behavioural therapist for help. She was an extremely perky person, and used to say things to me like: “I have a great idea! Why don’t you sign up for a really interesting night school course at the college?” I remember looking back at her and thinking: “You have absolutely no clue.” If only I’d had the energy, I would have thrown a heavy object right at her head…
I could scarcely motivate myself to even brush my teeth every morning, so how on earth would I manage the registration process for this ‘really interesting course’, never mind actually getting myself out the door to attend night school?
That’s the kind of suggestion you might make to a perfectly healthy person, and it told me instantly that this therapist had no real comprehension of how debilitating post-heart attack depression can actually be. See also: Healthy Privilege: When You Just Can’t Imagine Being Sick
That’s why I was so pleased to learn about a Canadian university’s innovative new mentorship program that – besides teaching health care students using traditional textbooks, labs and lectures – will link health mentors (adult volunteers actually experiencing chronic illness like heart disease) with teams of students from several health care faculties starting this fall. First year students with the Dalhousie University Health Mentors Program (all from the Faculty of Health Professions, Dalhousie Medical School and the Faculty of Dentistry) will meet four times a year with their assigned health mentors to ask questions like:
- What is it like to live with heart disease?
- What are the emotional ups and downs?
- How do you eat well and exercise when you don’t feel well?
- How do you manage pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and other cardiac symptoms?
- How has your life changed? Continue reading “Is this a “revolution” in med school education?”