Alexandra S. Arbor’s Ultimate Health Journal

Alexandra S. Arbor’s Ultimate Health Journal
Alexandra S. Arbor’s Ultimate Health Journal

5 years ago, the “young” medical resident that I was sat nervously in a café. I was to meet Marie Lambert-Chan, then editor-in-chief of the respected magazine Quebec Science. Marie impressed me a lot: she was also the editor-in-chief of my student newspaper, Montreal Campuswhen I was studying journalism at UQAM in the early 2000s.

She wanted to suggest that I (again) take up the pen and be at the helm of a medical column. I hesitated before accepting. I wondered in all humility who would want to read my thoughts on medicine – me who had neither experience nor notoriety. Thirty-five health records later, it is clear that you were there!

You have fueled my thinking on the doctor-patient relationship, since the very first column where I stated loud and clear that the patient is always right. I urge you to use your experiences to help your doctor care for you better. I also tried to explore the phenomena that can affect the therapeutic relationship: notably lying to one’s doctor (never a good idea!) and refusing treatment (yet a fundamental right!).

You were touched by my stories, gleaned from my daily life at the hospital. Particularly that of this elderly woman who was a diagnostic mystery until we discovered that her illness was loneliness and that the only medicine that worked for her was human warmth. I will remember your reactions to my writings on cardiopulmonary resuscitation, organ donation, medical assistance in dying. Deep subjects, provoking reflection on your own end of life or that of the people you love. Death is indeed an inexorable part of life.

You reacted to these columns on the small everyday problems which too often have a big effect in your lives: insomnia, depression and mood disorders, urinary incontinence, cognitive decline. I hope you will remember that these affections
frequent are often better treated thanks to comprehensive care, the cornerstone of which is non-pharmacological. It won’t be easy!

On this subject, many of you have appreciated my writings on medications of all kinds. One of you actually wrote me a letter, worrying that I would be removed from the College of Physicians, having been critical of Big Pharma more than once. Rest assured, I am still in good standing and I will continue to fight against polypharmacy throughout my career. You too should be concerned about the effects of each pill you take and always ask your doctor if it is indeed necessary.

You witnessed my first steps as a health professional in a system that was sometimes dysfunctional, sometimes exceptional. A system shaken by a pandemic, which has threatened to collapse a thousand times and which, however, is still standing thanks to all the staff who carry it at arm’s length and who try to make a difference every day. The labor shortage, accelerated by the exodus of caregivers to the private sector, scares me much more than budget cuts and other reforms of all kinds.

So this is how I conclude my last Health Journal. Five years later, I fully realize the privilege that was given to me, but I want to take a break to facilitate my work-life balance. Thank you for reading me and above all for helping me develop as a doctor and as a scientist.

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