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This week at the Markham Family Medicine Teaching Unit, we welcome 9 new Family Medicine residents. During their orientation last week, I took some time to give them 10 pieces of advice. These are some of the things that I wish someone had said to me when I started my training as a family doctor back in 1984!

1. Embrace change

2. Show respect and expect respect

3. Ask questions

The Hausa people say that “Ma tambaya baya bata” which means that “Those who ask questions do not go wrong”

4. Be prepared to make mistakes (and learn from them)

While he was in prison, Nelson Mandela said: “Those who are in the centre of the political struggle, who have to deal with practical and pressing problems, are afforded little time for reflection and no precedents to guide them and are bound to slip up many times.  But in due course, and provided they are flexible and prepared to examine their work self critically, they will acquire the necessary experience and foresight that will enable them to avoid the ordinary pitfalls and pick out their way ahead amidst the throb of events”

5. Learn to manage uncertainty – start with what you know

In her widely viewed TED talk, Brene Brown notes that “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change”

6. Put forward your best self

Martin Luther King Jr. inspired us with this challenge: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well’.”

7. Learn from everyone

8. Expect to build knowledge together

In a 2009 paper, my colleague, Helen Batty and I wrote: “Considering all the ways in which adults learn, there is no technique as appealing as the fact that when human beings interact, learning takes place. This process is known as ‘social constructivism’.”

9. Dare to dream

I love the way that Dr. Vincent Lam describes the dreamer characteristics of my hero, Tommy Douglas. Lam said that “In his words he sought to communicate a rare and powerful magic: the infectious substance of practical dreams.  He believed that if he and his fellow citizens could envision a better society, commit to that ideal and work for it, it could become real.”

10. Relax and enjoy the journey

I hope our new trainees will enjoy the journey. Carol Tomlinson said “If we allow ourselves to fall in love with what we do, we will be reborn countless times, almost always in a form stronger and more fully human than the one that preceded it.”


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