Each time Michael Gallea uses his stethoscope, he takes an extra five seconds to listen to his heart. In the stillness of the exam room, this reflective moment honors the connection between him and his patient and focuses his attention on the unique experience of the person seated before him.
Michael, a third-year UBC medical student, knows it can be easy to lose sight of the patient in pursuit of diagnoses and treatments. This daily ritual reminds him that what might be a typical day on the job can also be a life-changing moment for his patients. It’s a mindset he developed through observing the BC doctors who trained him. “I have been subtly and constantly reminded of the importance of empathy, acumen, and understanding in patient care, all of which I hope to translate into my own future practice,” he says.
Even though the path to becoming a physician takes time, and significant resources, Michael considers these a small price to pay for the opportunity to play a meaningful role in his patients’ healing process. He credits Doctors of BC with helping him maintain this care-focused perspective. Last year, Michael was a recipient of a Doctors of BC student bursary, which provides assistance to medical students who demonstrate financial need. While the bursary provided some welcome relief, its symbolic value is what sustains his work. “It’s heart-warming to know that those who have blazed this trail before us are looking back and are willing to extend a helping hand,” he says.
Michael just completed the Integrated Community Clerkship (ICC) program in Duncan, BC. While he has yet to choose a specialty, he thinks he may have found a home for his commitment to compassionate care in emergency medicine and palliative care. “The real heart of medicine is so present in palliative care and ER work because those people are truly in crisis,” Michael says.
Training on Vancouver Island, Michael has witnessed the benefits of working within a small community, particularly in developing an understanding of the specific needs of its Indigenous and elderly populations. As he prepares for his fourth-year electives, Michael knows that he wants to continue to cultivate this patient-centered perspective.
“I am developing the mindset and skills to foster that sense of community in my practice, whether I stay in a small town or work in a big city,” he says.
The medical training Michael has received over the past three years has been invaluable, not only for the satisfaction he gets from making a diagnosis or performing a surgical procedure, but for the opportunities to be present to his patients. Some of his greatest learning experiences as a medical trainee have taken place in the quiet moments in between the tests and surgeries.
“It’s moments like that where you get to know the person, not the patient.”
For more information about supporting awards for medical students, please contact Rhea Zhao at 604.827.2376 or email@example.com.