Close your eyes. Breathe deep. Tune in to your other senses. Focus.
This is the advice Dr. George Kim, undergraduate academic director, Department of Family Medicine, gives to the second year students in his Key Topics in Family Medicine course for their reflective writing assignments.
“We tell them to use all their other senses when thinking about what to write,” explained Dr. Kim. “We ask them what they smell, what they hear, what they feel.”
Students in the mandatory one-week course are assigned two 750-word reflective writing assignments. They are given prompt questions to encourage thoughtful responses. These prompts range from looking back on a specific experience or challenge to thinking about what the future holds.
Writing style and grammar are important, but the emphasis is on the content of the reflections.
“We’re looking for reflective writing, not a case report,” said Dr. Kim. “We tell them to be very open and honest.”
Self-reflection and narrative medicine have developed as a new way to assess students in the medical curriculum.
“Within family medicine as a discipline, there’s been more interest in self-reflection as an essential evaluation tool in our professional development,” said Dr. Kim. “There’s lots of excitement around narrative medicine these days.”
Schulich Medicine is one of only two medical schools in Canada to offer this type of structured family medicine content in its curriculum.
Dr. Kim says the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s commitment to the course is commendable. “I’m quite grateful for the continued support of the School,” he said.
Facilitating the course is also a powerful and personally rewarding experience for Dr. Kim.
“This kind of emotional intimacy being revealed in a person’s writing is an incredibly humbling part of my journey,” he said. “It speaks to the privilege that we as educators have in our roles and responsibilities.”