Resident Spotlight: Dr. Seth Climans, Neurology

Dr. Seth Climans grew up in Richmond Hill and Vaughan, and came to Western University and completed his Bachelor of Medical Sciences. Visits to the hospital where his mother worked exposed him to health care environments, first planting the seed of curiosity about a career in medicine. But it was a summer research opportunity working with a neurologist that really convinced him that medicine was the right career path to follow. After completing his undergraduate medical education at Queen’s University, he returned to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry for his residency. 

Did you have a role model or mentor who inspired you to follow your academic path? If not, why did you decide to pursue medicine? When did you know that you wanted to pursue your specialty?

For three summers I worked with Dr. Sandra Black a neurologist, and her research team. I also got to observe clinical neurology. Acute stroke protocols were intimidating but exhilarating. Dr. Black had a passion for rational enquiry but she also had a penchant for patient communication. After those summers, I was committed to a career in medicine. I knew I could be happy as a neurologist.

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

I took care of a woman on the inpatient neurology service and helped her through her suffering. She and her husband had recently spent a lot of money on assisted reproductive technology.

She had experienced several miscarriages and this was her last chance at having children.

She came in to the hospital with sudden-onset double vision. She underwent an MRI scan. And because she felt fewer fetal movements in hospital, she underwent an ultrasound.

In a matter of two days, I had to tell this woman three devastating pieces of news: she had multiple sclerosis, she had another miscarriage, and she would likely never have biological children.

I remember sitting down with her and her family having to break these three pieces of news to her. I felt the weight of every word coming from my mouth.  

She was sent home a few days later with a good follow-up plan.

After she left, I remember pausing every time I walked by her patient room where we had the conversations. The room seemed hallowed.

A few days later, I found a letter from her thanking me for my compassionate care. Despite her deep suffering, she found the time to thank me. Sometimes in medicine we can alleviate a patient’s suffering. Other times, we simply have to hold a patient’s hand and be there with them. These darkest moments help us understand the human condition.

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

In undergrad, I studied medical sciences with a specialization in physiology. I was taught to critically appraise scientific literature – to understand not just the what but also the why. I use these skills every day.

How do you maintain balance in your life?

I maintain balance in my life in a few ways. I stay active by bicycle commuting to work all year round. Even if I cannot find time to exercise outside of that, I at least get some exercise every day. I also spend time on activities that make me content. I love canoeing, so I portage down to the Thames River when I can.

I love talking live on the radio, so I volunteer as a radio DJ for the campus radio station when I can. Even if I can only do a few shows a year, the joy this brings me lasts me much longer than the time spent on the air.

I read for pleasure and am part of a book club because literature is important to me.

I am also a core volunteer member of the East Village Arts Collective. Through this collective, I have made friends outside of medicine. We organize art shows and live music. I love listening to music, so this is important to me. I love making music, so I play my instruments when I can.

In order to balance these hobbies and interests with my academic and clinical responsibilities, I need to stay organized. I do not spend time on activities that are not important to me. I am still learning how to strike that balance.

Rapid Round:

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

Forge meaning through human connections.

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

These are three albums that I listened to excessively at ages 9, 19, and 29, respectively:

1) The Beatles – Rubber Soul [1965]

2) Wilco – Sky Blue Sky [2007]

3) Lindy Vopnfjörð – Frozen in Time [2016]

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

I would love to trade lives with any of Fyodor Yurchikhin, Jack Fischer, or Peggy Whitson. They are astronauts currently in a low Earth orbit. They are the only people not living on this world. I would love to experience space travel with its weightlessness, views of home, and the sense of wonder these views might inspire.