Feature: A place to call their own

By Alexandra Burza, MMJC'19

It started with a simple idea on how to improve resiliency and wellbeing among Psychiatry residents. Former Chief Resident, Dr. Paris Lai, PGY4, wanted to establish a monthly reflection group where residents could share their challenges and discuss interactions with patients and colleagues with each other.

When he heard about the Professional Association of Residents of Ontario (PARO) enhancement fund, a vision started to form for a resident lounge that could be dedicated to this purpose.

“Historically, the Schulich Medicine - Windsor Campus residents didn’t have a dedicated space at the Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) hospital site to wind down, where the residents could gather and hold meetings,” Lai said.

“It’s important to have a physical space, it’s an important message from the School and the hospitals that their vision includes the wellbeing of their learners.”

Lai says the response to his PARO enhancement fund bid was encouraging, and staff at HDGH and Schulich Medicine wrote letters of support, which contributed to the success of Lai’s application. Psychiatry Academic Director—Dr. Pat Montaleone — was successful in appealing for additional funding from the City of Windsor in support of the project.

An underused research office was soon identified as the ideal location for the lounge, and Lai led the residents in collectively deciding what was needed in their new space.

“I’m very much appreciative of how everyone was comfortable in voicing their opinion,” he said. “When we have a common goal, everyone is enthusiastic about helping.”

After reviewing the feedback from his fellow residents, Lai said priorities for the lounge quickly emerged; it needed to be a place to relax, a place to meet and also a place to work. With the funding from PARO and the City of Windsor, they were able to purchase furniture, a coffee machine, microwave and a television, as well as create a separate office space.

“It’s behind a door, and there’s a computer, so for residents who need a place to work, or attend Zoom lectures from the hospital, they don’t have to compete with other staff,” Lai explained.

Thanks to an additional donation from HDGH, the lounge was also outfitted with lockers for Psychiatry and Family Medicine residents.

Although the space is currently not able to be fully utilized for meetings as intended due to COVID-19 restrictions, eventually Lai says the lounge would also function as a base for medical student teaching in the hospital.

Lai said he worked closely with hospital administration to bring the project to fruition, who were indispensable in coordinating the installation of all the furniture and equipment. Although he no longer holds the position of Chief Resident, Lai was satisfied that he could lead the project until now.

“As chief resident, one of the things that was most important to me was leaving the program better than when I came into it,” he said. “I hope that whoever continues to maintain our space makes things better and better with each year.”

He says this project was just the latest example of how supportive faculty and staff at Schulich Medicine-Windsor Campus have been throughout his residency. 

“Our program director and many others have facilitated my many interests in leadership, teaching and research. I’m very proud to be part of the Psychiatry residency program, everyone here is very inviting and appreciative of having residents in the community.”