Resident Spotlight: Dr. Rachel Kyle, Geriatric Medicine

Photograph of Dr. Rachel KyleDr. Rachel Kyle, a fifth-year resident in Geriatric Medicine, enjoys working with older adults, as she discovers their stories, learns what matters to them and tailors their health care needs.

Apart from her clinical work, Dr. Kyle also finds great satisfaction in teaching. Through the School, she has completed a professional development course and has found many opportunities to practise and engage in teaching. “I believe that being a good teacher also makes me a better physician,” she said.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of residency?

I once did an interview for a research study about caring versus curing for patients, and it really got me thinking. I think the most rewarding aspect of residency is when you are able to help care about and for someone. Sometimes curing is part of caring, but when you care for someone, you can make a meaningful impact on their lives – which is why I became a physician in the first place.

I think the most surprising thing has been the complexity of the patients we care for. And the fact that instead of things becoming clearer with time and experience, decisions become more and more grey, which is why I think the terminology ‘practice’ of medicine continues to be apt.

Why did you choose the School’s Geriatric Medicine training program?

I chose Schulich Medicine’s Internal Medicine (PGY1-3) and Geriatric Medicine (PGY4-5) training programs for many reasons. The first is the excellent reputation Schulich Medicine has for a focus on education. The second is that Western is well known for its collegial atmosphere, residents helping other residents and a culture of collaboration that I believe makes for better education, as well as significantly improved care for our patients. The last reason is London itself: it’s a great place to live and raise a family.

What is the program’s biggest strength?

The primary focus in Geriatric Medicine is resident education. All of the clinical services run independent of Geriatric Medicine residents (PGY4s and 5s), and so when you are on service you are there to learn – and the staff enforce that. The other equally important strength of the program is the relationship you have with the staff physicians; it is always one of a trusted and respected junior colleague, which translates to much richer conversations about patients and their complex medical conditions.

What types of cases and patient populations do you get to work with?

As a Geriatric Medicine resident, I specialize in the complex needs of older adults. While the scope of a geriatrician can be quite broad, we focus on the Geriatric Five Ms: Multimorbidity (managing multiple complex medical conditions); Mind (delirium, depression, dementia); Mobility (falls); Medications (What can be optimized? Can one drug work for multiple medical problems?); and finally, what Matters Most (patient-oriented priorities for health care). I love speaking to older adults, finding out their stories and what matters to them, and tailoring their health care accordingly.

What learning opportunities have you pursued as a resident beyond the clinical environment?

Apart from clinical work, teaching is where I derive satisfaction in my career. While teaching learners is so important, I believe that being a good teacher also makes me a better physician, as each patient encounter gives the opportunity to teach the patient and their family a little about their health. Through Schulich Medicine, I have been able to take a Continuing Professional Development course on teaching that has taught me a lot about practical teaching, as well as curriculum development. The Division of Geriatric Medicine has also found many opportunities for me to practise my teaching skills, which are an ongoing work in progress.

What have you learned about yourself through residency?

This is a tough one. I’ve been a resident for almost seven years now, having taken two maternity leaves, so I’ve learned a lot. The biggest lesson is that there is always room for improvement. Residency is humbling; as soon as you start to feel confident, you get thrown a curveball that reminds you to learn from every patient encounter, every failed teaching session and every difficult conversation.

What do you enjoy most about living in London?

The trails! Going for a walk to the park on the trail that starts at the end of my street, being able to bike along paths to work, or going for a hike at any time of the year. Having quick access to this throughout the last eight months during the COVID-19 pandemic has really hammered home how lucky we are to live in this city.