Resident Spotlight: Dr. Lauren Riggen, PGY 4, Psychiatry

During medical school, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry alumna Dr. Lauren Riggen, MD’15 wanted to find a residency program that would expose her to innovative research and teaching but not be so big that she would be thought of as a number. The Psychiatry program at Schulich Medicine was the perfect match. Today, one of the most inspiring aspects of her training is working as part of a team with two female psychiatrists who serve as role models for her.  

“They are exceptional care providers, outstanding teachers, but to me, I am inspired by their ability to stand up for what is right. They advocate for their patients, they lead change within the department, and they affect others to do the same,” she said.

Why did you choose to pursue medicine?

I always knew that I wanted to be a doctor but what specialty, on the other hand, was a difficult decision. I love helping people. It is such a privilege to talk to someone, hear their innermost hopes and fears, and be able to improve their quality of life in some way. I also genuinely enjoy problem-solving. I am constantly thinking, how can we fix this? Or how can we do this better?  For me, medicine was a natural fit combining analytical tasks and compassion.

Describe your experience as a resident at Schulich Medicine?

I love being a Schulich Medicine resident – I get to learn, teach, and help patients. There have been so many exciting experiences. For instance, I liked attending the Transition to Residency Program in the first year. It was great getting the most essential information highlighted for us, while also getting to know so many future colleagues. It was a real highlight of my residency to be able to go back as a senior resident and teach in the Program this year. I enjoy the collegial environment of Schulich Medicine residency, regardless of specialty.

What is your greatest achievement during your residency to date?

My greatest achievement in residency was taking the time to figure out Powerchart and then optimizing it for my department. Creating quick orders and powerplans has gone a long way in saving time for residents while also reducing medical errors.

What is the most important lesson you have learned through patient care?

The most important lesson I have learned through patient care is that sometimes you do not have all of the answers. I am someone who wants to be able to “figure it out” but I have realized that sometimes that is quite frankly not possible. I have learned that there is a lot of power and value in the palliative approach. It is important to be honest with patients when we do not know the best next step. We need to be able to show our human side, and through that, we can also show our compassion.

What activities/initiatives are you involved with that help bring balance in your life?

I find balance in life by allowing myself to have much-needed me-time. I love travelling and I love eating out at restaurants. To keep me grounded, I also continue to volunteer outside of the hospital – but only during the winter, when I teach special needs youth how to ski.

What has been your greatest challenge during residency?

My greatest challenge is trying to negotiate competing interests between patients, other specialties, my friends and colleagues, and most importantly, the system. It is an ongoing battle that is highlighted every time I am on call but is one that I truly believe is worth thinking about. There is no easy solution, but I am confident that we are all trying to do what is right for the patient.

What have you learned about yourself and others through your residency?

I assume like most residents, I have certainly had my ups and downs in the past four years. I am someone who, when up, can be enormously optimistic and see areas for potential improvement. I am so grateful to my colleagues, particularly from my class, who are more even-tempered. They can lift me when I am down and are always there to point me in the right direction.