Personal experiences are learning opportunities for many

For Dino Alexopoulos, and Kevin Dueck, both Medicine Class of 2016, reflecting on significant personal or professional experiences usually involves a pen and paper. This month their reflections have also landed them on the glossy pages of a magazine.

The second year medical students are two of six Schulich Medicine & Dentistry learners with published articles in January’s edition of Scrub-In, the Ontario Medical Association’s student publication.

Alexopoulos and Dueck both wrote personal narratives for the issue, sharing important experiences that shaped their development as future physicians. “I think for both of us it was about humanizing medical students,” said Dueck. “We’re not invincible and we have emotions.”

Dueck’s article covers an injury he suffered as a patient from simple blood work, part of a routine checkup he underwent in July.

The injury and subsequent eight-week recovery impacted Dueck’s professional views on patient care, a message he wanted to share with his fellow medical students. “I wanted to talk about how routine investigations that we order for patients are not zero-risk,” he explained.

Alexopoulos’ story shifts focus from physical health to emotional well-being. He wrote about his first experience with a code pink, or pediatric cardiac arrest, that occurred during a four-week anesthesia elective. In this case, a routine C-section quickly deteriorated into a life-or-death emergency situation.

The event reminded Alexopoulos of a lesson from his first year at Schulich Medicine. “The hardest thing about being a medical student is the ambiguity of your role,” he explained.

“There are a lot of questions. What do you do? What are you going to do?” Feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy followed Alexopoulos out of the NICU the day of the code pink.

He says taking time for self-care after work is important. “Medical students are not robots,” he said.

Having both grown up in Southwestern Ontario, Alexopoulos and Dueck feel quite at home as members of the Schulich Medicine community. Both are still exploring areas of specialized interest as they pursue their medical studies.

Alexopolous is keen on anesthesiology and hopes to someday teach and mentor medical students. As a husband and father, Dueck takes family considerations seriously when weighing his own career options. “As long as I’m making a positive difference, I’ll be satisfied,” he said.

The classmates are pleased to see their work featured and are optimistic the stories will facilitate discussion amongst fellow Ontario medical students. “We can draw from each other’s experiences and compare and learn,” said Alexopoulos.