Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 2 – Zal

By: Zal Press

I’m looking at 4 vibrant young faces as we gather around a rectangular formation of tables in a small, bland meeting room that I found uncomfortable and opposed to my nature. I’ve made a habit of never sitting at the proverbial “head” of the table. Not at home or away. The implication of authority contradicts my principle of equity. I didn’t change my habit for this meeting either and found the “square” didn’t work. I much prefer a circle. Easier to see faces.

In education, though, there’s always an authority. There’s judgement and punishment and there’s always some arbitrary rule whether fair or not. Education isn’t a democracy. Nowhere is that more true than in medical education. Its culture is hierarchical, severe, strict, and breeds conformity. With the exception, of course, of this Health Mentor program which is at the leading edge of change in the approach to life science education.

These inquisitive young faces peppered me with questions about my relationship with health providers. I emphasized that the most important thing that happened over a period of 32 years was the transfer and realignment of the power balance in the relationship. It wasn’t an easy transition at times, for [...] continue the story

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 1 – Chrystal

By: Chrystal Gomes

I was nervous.  This was the first time I was to be a Health Mentor.  Although I had shared “my story” time and time again, this was going to be different.  This time, it could, and hopefully would, make a real difference within the context of a future medical community.

My biggest dilemma:   How much do I share?   Do I share the good, the bad, AND the ugly?

I was so nervous, I arrived at the building downtown one hour early.   I stopped in at the coffee shop across the street for a comforting French Vanilla Cappuccino.  I reviewed the paperwork regarding the Health Mentor Program.  I glanced over the sample questions and the answers I had pencilled in.

Still nervous, I made my way across the street and up to the second floor about 20 minutes early. The five students – all young women – were already there.  I was more nervous and I knew they could sense this.  Even if they couldn’t, I recall this being one of my first confessions to the group – that I was nervous.

I needn’t have been nervous.  They were a delightful group of students who were genuinely interested in hearing my patient voice.  [...] continue the story

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 1 – Annette

By: Annette McKinnon

It is interesting to be a Health Mentor and talk to students in various disciplines who will ultimately have to work together for the good of the whole patient. You have some great ideas Zal, for engagement. I told my group that there was a “Patient Commando” out there and I have no doubt you are much discussed, even as we speak.

I think that in the past when I participated I talked too much – I am learning to shut up and answer the questions so that things can proceed better. The students were very interested and we covered all of the areas in good time. I was delighted when one of them gave me some quick advice about two exercises that she thought would benefit me. All of their areas of study were areas that I have used in my long career as a patient which has lasted much too long. Being a patient is something I would like to retire from.

I have a friend in advertising who says the same thing as you do Zal – telling a story is the best way to get an idea across and so this is a brilliant program to [...] continue the story

Health Mentor – Season One – Episode 1 – Zal

By: Zal Press

I came out of the subway into air that was just cool enough to keep me focussed on my thoughts rather than the weather. Throughout the subway ride I was riddled with anxiety about my new Health Mentor group I was about to meet.

This is my second year in the program. As a so-called veteran I knew what to expect, but I felt that this was going to be different. The students were going to be different. And so was I because I also knew that I was going to be writing this blog about the experience and I was feeling some self-generated pressure to produce a kick-ass piece.

Would that prejudice or bias my session? I was worried I might manipulate the session just to satisfy my selfish need for literary recognition. “These students deserve to get the best I have to offer in terms of insights from a chronic illness patient”, I kept telling myself. As I jumped up the stairs at 500 University through the front doors and up the elevator to meet the group, I focused on being authentic, real and honest and pledged that my literary ambitions wouldn’t get in the way.

The minute I [...] continue the story