Last weekend, we had our very first conference and it was FANTASTIC! After months of preparation, we were so delighted to see everyone who came out to Bridging the Gap. From the incredible speakers, to the eager participants, we had such a brilliant time together and learnt so much about what it takes to equip future leaders for a diverse healthcare system. To celebrate this awesome event, we wanted to share with you 5 important lessons that we took away from the conference.
1. Everybody’s journey is unique, no two stories are identical.
During our professional stories session, Hasnaien Ahmed, a current MD Candidate at the University of Alberta, gave us a brief introduction to the profession of medicine. He highlighted some of the most common misconceptions about the field and gave a rundown on the reality of what it actually means to journey though medicine. He brought up the fact that many people tend to fall into the habit of wanting their process to look exactly like the people that have gone before them. He points out that this approach to entering the medical field or any other health profession tends to lead people astray and can cause major disappointment. To quote him directly, he says, ” If you ask yourself “what should I sign up for to get in” you’ve already lost.” He makes it clear that although there is nothing wrong with recognizing the different paths that people have taken to enter the field, it is important that one does not get lost in other people’s stories. Instead, it is better to ask, “what will make me a mature, developed individual who is a leader that can communicate with others and is willing to sacrifice and work hard for the sake of others”.
2. Our world is full of resources, take advantage of them.
In our first educational session, we were lucky to have one of our very own, Deborah Nyarko, give a practical presentation on effective time management and studying. She gave us several tips on how to make better use of our time and ensure that all goals and tasks are completed well and on schedule. She pointed out that there are many resources that have been created to help individuals excel, but because of a lack of knowledge, many do not take advantage of them. Several of the resources that she highlighted are free and easily accessible. Each designed to address common problems and provide simple solutions. From applications like Quizlet to online tools like Khan Academy, our world is filled with resources that have been made to help individuals in their respective journeys through schooling and careers in the health field. Most of the time, these resources are free and can be used by anyone. One of the goals of our conference was to gather different resources into one space so that we could provide access to everyone and ensure that no one is denied the chance of taking advantaging of what could support and further their journey through the field.
3. Everyone needs a mentor at some point in their journey.
We were so honored to have Jodi McKay from Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Calgary come in and speak during the community session. BBBS is a non-profit organization that has been working with children and youth across Canada since 1912. Through different initiatives and unique programs, the organization has spent decades serving different communities and changing lives. One of the key things that Jodi talked about was the importance of mentorship. She explained that although the concept itself seems quite simple, the results that it brings can be gigantic. She further explained that studies have shown that the “mentoring effect” is what allows individuals to do well despite serious hardship. She points out that having a stable and committed relationship with a supportive and trusted mentor gives individuals space for growth. Whether it’s at the beginning or middle of one’s journey, having a mentor to talk things through with and receive advice from allows us to learn and expand our knowledge. It brings about new possibilities, challenges us to think outside the box, and eliminates constant bouts of fear of the unknown.
4. Time is valuable, but there is nothing wrong with waiting.
During the last question period of the conference, a participant asked our panel of professionals this very intriguing question: “How did you deal with moments after your degree where you felt like your career was not taking off or that you no longer knew what you wanted in life?” We had two brilliant speakers answer this question, Evan Wong, a public health/policy worker, and Erika Rodning, a clinical dietitian. Evan explained that one of the biggest reasons why we feel discouraged and disappointed when things don’t go to plan career wise is because we don’t view our careers as a continuum. They explained that when approaching the field of health or any other field, it is important to remember that every step and experience is part of the journey. They pointed out that no ones journey is discrete, they are all continuous. They will take time and may be filled with many moments of disappointment and long periods of waiting, however, they all add to our growth and often lead us to the paths that we are truly meant to be on. Erika added on to this point by placing an emphasis on taking things slow and in bite size chunks. She explained that there will always be moments where one may feel stuck, however, trying to approach this moments as a whole can be overwhelming. She points out that when we embrace the small steps in our careers, it is easier for us to not get stuck in the big picture and to actually appreciate the periods of waiting.
5. Self-care is healthcare.
In another session by Hasnaien Ahmed, he spoke about the significance of self-care. Hasnaien explained that many of us in the health field are on journeys that require our constant time, commitment, energy, and attention. While many are fully aware of what they have signed up for, many do not know how to deal with the feelings of stress and burnout that they encounter on the way. He states that, “everyone needs to learn how to take care of themselves and this looks different for everyone.” He further states that self-care is what preserves our health and ensures that we are never working in a state of exhaustion. He also adds that being able to identify specific signs of burnout helps us take immediate action and prevents us from always feeling like we’re on the edge. In the words of Audre Lorde, “self care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.“
From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped us bring the Bridging the Gap conference together. We could not have done this without each and every one of you!
Together we can make an impact on the health of the nations and the generations to come.
The mission of WHEF is to increase accessibility to medications and supplies for healthcare facilities in Guatemala and Grenada. If you are interested in hearing more about the work we are doing, or in connecting with us, you can visit our website, check out our instagram or facebook, or sign up to receive our newletters. If you would like to support us in our work, please donate here.