Resident Spotlight: Dr. Paris Lai, Psychiatry, Schulich Medicine - Windsor Campus

Dr. Paris Lai was born in Hong Kong and moved to Toronto at the age of five. He decided to pursue his residency in psychiatry as it integrated his interests of interviewing patients and pharmacology and he enjoys helping patients navigate the health care system and working with them to reintegrate into society.  

Did you have a role model or mentor who inspired you to follow your academic path?

A combination of experiences have brought me to the decision of becoming a doctor. Growing up, my aunt who was my close friend and role model, became very ill. My family and I needed to visit the hospital often as my aunt’s condition worsened. It was at that time, I first began to appreciate the services at the hospital and the number of people who are involved in the care of the patient. I found it very admirable how the doctor drew on the strengths of the interdisciplinary team including the nurses, dietitians, and social workers. I knew that I wanted to enter health care to help others.

What has been your most rewarding experience to date in your residency?

I find working with the geriatric population extremely rewarding and I enjoy working with the patient and their family.

While on palliative care, being able to support the patients and be a part of their dignified journey toward end of life has been extremely rewarding. I have been honoured to help patients accept their illness and redefine how they would like to be perceived at the end of life. It is very fulfilling to be able to support and equip families with the resources and for the interdisciplinary team to fulfill the patient’s last wishes. When patients and families take the time to thank me at the end, it is very meaningful and always reminds me of why I initially chose to pursue medicine.

What has been the most challenging experience to date in your residency?

While I was on inpatient medicine, I remember I was on-call and I received nearly 10 new admissions overnight. At the same time, my pager was ringing nearly every hour and there were many issues that needed to be dealt with. It was certainly very stressful and I remember that I was essentially snacking on the go because there was no time to sit down and catch my breath. Successfully surviving the night and ensuring all my patients were safe was a very rewarding experience. It is very helpful that we have our senior residents and the critical care outreach team available for us to ask questions and to work with us so we never feel alone.

What learning from your undergraduate medical education or early residency do you return to often now as you are pursuing your residency?

Reflective practice through journaling my clinical encounters and challenging experiences has been an invaluable skill that I started during my undergraduate medical education and which I continue to practise regularly during residency. I find that it helps me to slow down and think about what was done well during each encounter but also what could have been done differently so that if I face the same situation again in the future, I can do better. As clinicians, we are taught to be lifelong learners, and I believe that we would not be able to improve and provide ideal care to our patients without reflecting on our patient care.

How do you maintain balance in your life?

Work-life balance is very important to me. I have to ensure I take care of myself so that I can be an effective physician. During the week, I work hard - committing myself to the patients I care for. I put everything I need to do in my calendar to keep myself organized and stay on task. During the weekend, I take time to relax to avoid burning out. Sometimes, I even schedule downtime for myself, whether it’s a short road trip or an evening cooking and baking at home. As residents, we get five weeks of vacation so I’ve been very diligent in trying to use them all.

Rapid Round:

If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be?

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

What are three albums that give a glimpse of who you are as a person?

I tend to listen to music on the radio. Three songs I would say reflect me are “Happy” by Pherrell Williams, “I gotta feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas, and “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by Kelly Clarkson.

If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day who would it be and why?

I think being able to trade lives with anyone would be interesting as I could experience what someone else is going through. But if I really had to choose, I think it would be fascinating to switch lives with Doctor Who, so I could travel through space and time.