Learning on the job at Royal Columbian

In a special series, reporter Marelle Reid chats with the people who make RCH run.

Sina Alipour is a chief medical resident who has been working a six-month contract at RCH. The Record caught up with Alipour this week to find out what it's like to work in the medical education office at the hospital.

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Question: Can you describe your role?

Answer: I'm a third-year internal medicine resident, so every year there's a total of 40 internal medicine residents (from UBC).

Six of us are chosen to go to different sites and complete residencies.

So there's one of us at St. Paul's, one at VGH and one comes to RCH; sort of the main academic centres.

Our main responsibilities are two-fold. One is education, so we are involved in teaching more junior residents, and also the medical students, and (the other is) administration work.

Q: So as a chief medical resident you're not working with patients?

A: That's pretty much it. Mainly our responsibility is just to focus on the education of the other residents and the medical students and also the administration. We don't do a lot of patient care.

Q: When you were at medical school did you have to choose a specialty?

A: . I've already managed to get a spot in cardiology. Internal medicine is mostly diagnostic and management, but pharmacological management, so medication, not surgical.

We still do some procedures but they're much less involved than for a cardiac surgeon, for example. We assess the patient and if they need surgery then we're the ones who call the surgeon and they'll come and see the patient and take them to the OR.

Q: How did you decide on cardiology?

A: I was always interested in physiology. That was always my area of interest in medical school, and then specifically, cardiovascular cardiology always fascinated me when I was going through (school).

When I got into residency, I realized that I like the acuity that's involved in cardiology. So putting those together, I decided to go into that field.

So it's four years of med school, three years of internal medicine residency, and then three years of cardiology on top of that.

Q: What's the most interesting part of your job as chief resident?

A: The most interesting part is education - that's one thing that I really enjoy.

We do get a lot of medical students here that have never been exposed to internal medicine, and by the clinical teaching that they receive here on their rotation, in the eight-week period that they're with us, you see a significant progression in terms of their knowledge and their clinical skills, and I think seeing that progress is always very rewarding and I'm always very impressed by how much they learn and absorb.

Q: Is your job at all like the TV show House?

A: Dr. House (the TV character) is an internal medicine doctor.

The interesting cases that he sees are also some of the cases that we see in the hospital. It's pretty interesting.

Internal medicine is all about diagnosis and seeing a patient that we don't really know what's going on, and going through different steps to come up with a diagnosis and then the treatment, so that critical thinking process.

Dr. House, he always sees the interesting cases, (but) as internal medicine doctors, we also see a lot of bread and butter cases, the typical patients with heart failure, with pneumonia or bladder infections and such.

Q: What's your background and where did you get your medical training?

A: I grew up in Richmond. I went to high school there and then I went to UBC and when I got into university I had no idea that I wanted to be a doctor.

Q: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A: I always wanted to be an engineer. I was always fascinated by high rises and bridges and the way people designed these things. I still enjoy it; I still think it's fascinating the way they build bridges and buildings, but I'm glad I'm in medicine.

Q: Did it help you get into med school, not planning on it from early on?

A: I think it's a good thing not to focus too early on in your life in general because there's so many different occupations out there, so many different skills you can acquire, and by focusing too early I think you miss a lot of opportunities to get to know yourself and see what you enjoy.

Q: What would you say is the most difficult aspect of getting into medical school?

A: I think that the most difficult part is, if you ever do get rejected from medical school, is to have the persistence and perseverance to go back and re-apply.

A lot of people I know apply once and they get disheartened by the whole process and they don't re-apply, but I think if you're passionate about something that you want to do, it's a good idea to go back, see what areas you can improve on.

Q: What's an ideal medical school candi-e?

A: Well-rounded people who have proven themselves academically by doing well at university and on their MCAT scores, but also they want people that are well-rounded in general, so (those) who have contributed to the community they live in, people that are involved in sporting activities, team-players, leadership qualities.

Q: Do you wear scrubs?

A: When I'm doing my chief residency I usually don't, just because I'm not in the wards or dealing with patients.

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