Monday, January 25, 2016

Two more prize-winning stories from Canadian family physicians

The January 2016 issue of Canadian Family Physician contains two stories which won the AMS-Mimi Divinsky awards. I’ve blogged about earlier award winners in 2015, 2014, and 2013.

The best story from a resident was The Dance by Jessica Ladouceur. In just 512 words she tells about getting to know a patient.

The best story by a family physician was Arctic data streams (graphing land and love) by Courtney Howard. She pointed out that:

“I have recently realized that although MDs think that we make decisions based on evidence, much more often we change our practice based on the story relayed along with the evidence—based on the efficacy of an epinephrine drip in a code run over the phone and the success of polyethylene glycol in a single, extremely constipated Chipewyan elder. We respect numbers but, for better or for worse, we follow stories.” 

She briefly mentioned that story with the elder:

“Fort Providence—a Chipewyan-speaking elder is brought in with constipation and gets tired of waiting for the translator. He suddenly bursts out, 'No sh*t!' and raps the table next to his chair, causing the loudest explosion of inappropriate laughter of my career.”

Most of her story tells about attending a meeting in Yellowknife after a spill from a coal tailings pond into the Athabasca river.  

“Finally, the man who has been sitting in a pool of quiet at the head table rises to speak. He is the leader of the aboriginal group from just downstream from the spill in Alberta. He thanks everyone for their information, nods at the coal company rep, says he respects him as a human for coming. The poor young man from the coal company looks miserable for the first time. 

Despite the fact that the leader’s eyes are cast down and he seems to breathe in fatigue, something about him makes us lean in. A palpable sense of responsibility, gracefully shouldered. My own breath slows, is almost held, as he speaks.

‘They’ve never been faced with a serious situation like this before. They felt like their man-made dykes wouldn’t fail. The provincial government doesn’t know what they’re doing. The federal government doesn’t know what they’re doing. This tailings pond was constructed 15 years ago. So it was a new tailings pond that breached. We have thousands of older ponds.’ He continues, describing how his people still fish on the river, still live traditionally as much as they can. Meanwhile, the accumulating development projects in his area are changing the landscape so much as to make it almost unrecognizable.

He looks up, ‘We are going to be environmental refugees because of environmental catastrophes occurring on our land.’ “

She mentioned a word I hadn’t heard before, solastalgia, which means feeling homesick while you are still at home. You can download a .pdf file with both stories here.

Ben Schott discussed solastalgia back in 2011 in his Schott’s Vocab blog.

The image of a woman’s hands by Daniel Sone came from the National Cancer Institute.

No comments: