Seeing the world through different lenses

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 59, No. 6, July August 2017, Page 295 President's Comment

The fascinating thing about the field of medicine, and about working a lifetime as a physician, is the speed at which knowledge and practice change.

The fascinating thing about the field of medicine, and about working a lifetime as a physician, is the speed at which knowledge and practice change. Much of what I learned in medical school is now considered outdated, and clinical practice is continually evolving. As we learn more, keeping up to date can be overwhelming, but learning provides us with many opportunities. By learning from others, learning through experiences, and learning through our partnerships, we have the chance to see the world of medicine and our profession through many different lenses.

From birth, throughout childhood and adolescence, and into adult life, the challenges we face and the experiences we have profoundly influence the person we become—and establish the lens with which we view the world. I recently attended an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) workshop, put on by Doctors of BC’s Shared Care Committee. It was exciting and extremely interactive, with participation from clinicians, health authorities, the Ministry of Health, and patients. All of us attending brought our past experiences, which have impacted our view of the world. The key lesson I took home from this workshop was that enquiring about ACEs should be a part of the patient histories I take in my practice—that sharing these experiences is the first step to healing, and merely asking the question changes outcomes for patients. It also provides me with the opportunity to view things through my patients’ lenses.

A goal of workshops such as this is to bring together pentagram partners—all of us who view health care through a different lens—and have us share our learnings and our experiences. The ACEs workshop I attended specifically looked at the programs and ongoing work taking place in Alberta and considered how these concepts could be incorporated into primary and maternity care in BC—how our profession and our patients could benefit from Alberta’s experiences. It addressed how Alberta’s work included folks across multiple sectors, including government ministries, that do not typically work together; how Alberta incorporated not only patients’ and clinicians’ perspectives and experiences but also the perspectives of educators, policymakers, administrators, and politicians; and how Alberta looked through many different lenses to see the whole picture—partnerships that are critical to developing programs that work.  

Why does this matter in BC? Because as we develop the practical aspects of patient medical homes and primary care homes we must look at this work through the lenses of all those across the continuum of care. It’s important for our patients, it’s important for us as physicians, and it’s important to our partners. Partnerships have the potential to strengthen and enrich our advocacy and policy work. And building relationships will ultimately increase our ability to work together toward common goals. But only when we view this work through each other’s lenses will we be successful in uniting and aligning our work. One example is our partnership with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). Indigenous people are particularly affected by ACEs, and through meeting with leaders from the FNHA I have seen their challenges through a different lens. We as clinicians have a particular perspective, formed and modified through our medical training.

Sometimes the people we work with come from such a different place that we need to radically shift our assumptions and our viewpoint to find common ground to begin the discussion. We need to look at the world through their lens.  

Medicine is changing. We are changing. And each experience—good or bad—changes the lens through which we view the world. As individuals and as a profession, we have the opportunity to see the world through other lenses, and as we move forward as an organization we must consider these other lenses as we develop our overall vision. 

During my year as president I want you to share your views with me so I can understand your concerns, develop relationships with you, and build connections with other organizations on your behalf. I encourage you to e-mail me at and share your stories. Help me see the world through your lens.
—Trina Larsen Soles, MD
Doctors of BC President

Trina Larsen Soles, MD. Seeing the world through different lenses. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 6, July, August, 2017, Page(s) 295 - President's Comment.

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