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Bursary’s symbolic value as valuable as the financial one

September 7, 2017

Each time fourth-year UBC medical student Michael Gallea uses his stethoscope, he takes an extra 5 seconds to listen to his heart. In the stillness of the exam room, this reflective moment honors the connection between him and his patient and focuses his attention on the unique experience of the person seated before him.

Michael knows it can be easy to lose sight of the patient in pursuit of diagnoses and treatments. This daily ritual reminds him that what might be a typical day on the job can also be a life-changing moment for his patients.    

Even though the mounting debt of his training can be daunting at times—“it can get a little out of control if you think about it,” he admits—Michael considers it a small price to pay for the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in his patients’ healing process.

He credits Doctors of BC with helping him maintain this care-focused perspective.  Last year, Michael was one of 125 medical students who received a bursary of $1,750, for a total of $218,750 in Doctors of BC student bursaries, which provides assistance to medical students who demonstrate financial need.

While the bursary provided welcome relief, its symbolic value is what sustains Michael’s work. “It’s heart-warming to know that those who have blazed this trail before us are looking back and are willing to extend a helping hand,” he says.

Michael recently completed the Integrated Community Clerkship (ICC) program in Duncan, BC. While he has yet to choose a specialty, he thinks he may have found a home for his commitment to compassionate care in emergency medicine and palliative care. “The real heart of medicine is so present in palliative care and ER work because those people are truly in crisis,” Michael says.

Training on Vancouver Island, Michael has witnessed the benefits of working within a small community, particularly in developing an understanding of the specific needs of its Indigenous and elderly populations. As he prepares for his fourth-year electives, Michael knows that he wants to continue to cultivate this patient-centered perspective.

“I am developing the mindset and skills to foster that sense of community in my practice, whether I stay in a small town or work in a big city,” he says.   

Doctors of BC is proud to support doctors of tomorrow like Michael Gallea.