Learner Perspectives: Medical student Ziad Sabaa-Ayoun on the power of conversation

“Through conversation, I’ve learned how much I don’t know – about people, medicine, and about the way the world works.”

As Ziad Sabaa-Ayoun completes his fourth year of the Doctor of Medicine (MD) program, he’s reflecting on the power of conversation that he’s enjoyed through his podcast, Multipotent MD, through patient care, and with his mentors and colleagues.

“You’ll never realize how many different perspectives of life you are missing until you have the privilege to speak with people about it,” Sabaa-Ayoun said.  

It was during the drive to Seaforth for a Discovery Week placement that Sabaa-Ayoun and his close friend and classmate Christopher Creene decided to collaborate on a podcast that focused on the intricacies and daily workings of medical specialties. Ideally they hoped to create a comprehensive library of conversations that explored medicine and could become essential listening for medical students as they planned out their residency path. 

What they ended up with was an extraordinary experience to meet and talk to people from across the country at different stages of their medical careers, offering a long list of perspectives, ideas, opinions, advice, and counsel. Soon the duo expanded their guest list to also include residents, medical students, and Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Laureates.

Conversations on the podcast, called Multipotent MD, covered the gamut, focusing on medicine from the perspective of those who work within it and even more specifically, on important topics such as equity and equality in medicine, mental health, burnout, the frontlines of COVID-19, leadership, and the toll lengthy work hours have on health care workers – mentally and physically.

“Everyone we have interviewed has been incredible and I’ve learned so much. But Dr. Gigi Osler – that was the grail interview that we wanted to achieve,” Sabaa-Ayoun said.

And with advice ranging from the practical – such as wearing compression stockings in the operating room, a tip shared by Dr. Osler – to the more philosophical – like to always seek out the uncomfortable, which was shared by Dr. John Yoo – Sabaa-Ayoun says he’s grown personally and professionally thanks to the podcast conversations.  

Clinical training has also been rich with opportunity for Sabaa-Ayoun to explore the power of conversation.

“I worked with Dr. George Kim for a month at his practice, and he inspired and shaped a lot of how I approach medicine and how I interact with patients. He has a way of talking to patients and establishing common ground through conversation that they come to shared goals for care. I’ll also forever carry with me the conversations I’ve had with Dr. Adam Power, a mentor of mine, about how one deals with patient loss and the importance of debriefing after challenging events and patient outcomes.”

What Sabaa-Ayoun has gained through these conversations have led to a regular habit of journaling which gives him the opportunity to sort through his experiences on his own and reflect on who he wants to be as a person and physician. 

Now with CaRMS right around the corner, conversations on Multipotent MD will put the focus on the critical process – with a goal to empower their classmates and future colleagues through conversation for a successful next step in their careers.