As a palliative care physician, Dr Shikha Minhas can’t offer her dying patients miracle cures. But she can give them comfort as they pass.
With her medical expertise and compassionate manner, she has cared for hundreds of patients at Surrey Memorial Hospital during their journey at the end of their lives. Her role is to manage their symptoms and ease their suffering. Her work is complex and her colleagues say that she truly demonstrates the art of medicine.
Dr Minhas explains “there’s such complexity in a patient’s medical care, which is the interesting part and keeps the mind buzzing – this is what I went into medicine for. There’s also such an amazing blending of the psychological, spiritual and emotional dimensions of health in this work.”
Her journey began with training in family practice, where the importance of palliative care soon became very clear. “When you hit the wards and you’re on your own having discussions with families, you realize fairly quickly that you’re not really prepared and you don’t know how to lead these difficult conversations, which are really important for patients and families to make decisions.” Dr Minhas’ commitment to person-centred care shines through in her hours-long conversations with patients and families about their wishes at the end of life.
Now as the Section Head for Palliative Care Medicine, her leadership abilities are well used. “I call myself kind of the accidental leader because I don’t always have the intention of stepping in as a leader, but apparently the questions that I ask seems to denote I’m a leader. I’m proud of the advocacy work we’ve done, which is really the ongoing work all of our physicians at different levels.”
One of her goals is to get recognition within the medical school curriculum for appropriate palliative care training, and particularly early integration. “A lot of people have worked hard to accomplish this and I’ve been fortunate to have direct feedback into our specialty training block at UBC”.
It takes a special person to work with the dying and a lot of people marvel at what a positive person Dr Minhas, but she sees no paradox.
“I think that’s such an assumption – that all palliative care work is depressing. This work teaches us about true human interactions, the importance and value of core teams, and the significance of having really strong relationships with the people in your lives.”
Those strong relationships include her husband and 12 year old daughter Simran. She also gains joy from travelling, music, Indian classical dance, reading, cooking and volunteering.
Dr Minhas talks often about value “I think this work helps you value the important things. We all have an interval of time – nobody knows how long that interval is. With our patients that interval has been brought into clarity. I believe we can live our lives with that same clarity. We all want to create the biggest and best impact for the people around us.”
Dr Minhas is just one of the many BC doctors who are making a difference in patients’ lives and in their journey towards the end of life.
Doctors of BC is interested in profiling physicians you know who are making a positive difference for their patients and in their communities. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.