The True Cause of Death

“I had met him at the Over 60 Health Center, a clinic founded by and created for the Gray Panthers, to serve the aging Black Panthers and others in the community. And now a short decade later, he is gone. A self-described lifelong revolutionary, a Black Panther and member of the Black August organizing committee, Roy’s life was filled with stories, and those stories culminating into his immediate cause of death—metastatic cancer. His other underlying medical issues: hepatitis C and a rare spinal cord condition that contributed to unrelenting functional decline. Thinking about his life and what led to this death, I reflected on the day he came to establish care with me. I remember learning of the years of fragmented care, the years of struggle finding safe and affordable housing, and I remember him adjusting to a progressive disability. Life took on twisty turns, and his care again became disrupted after my departure from the community health center, my own father’s death, the birth of my daughter, and then a global pandemic.

The expansion of telehealth allowed me to see him again a year ago, only to find out that he had been diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, despite timely cancer screening and successful treatment for hepatitis C with new direct-acting antivirals. But as I lay awake thinking of events that occurred to him during the last decade that I knew him, and over the 7 decades that he lived, I realized that something glaring was missing from his cause of death at age 71. His stories and his revolutionary steadfastness made it clear. Systemic racism. It affected his ability to be housed safely, obtain medications, navigate his health care, receive appropriate care, and ultimately did contribute to his death.

Like many of my peers, I was never formally taught to write a death certificate.1 Instead, years ago, completing the death certificate worksheet was just one of many tasks given to me as an internal medicine resident. These ‘to-do’ items handed to interns and residents, at best came with formal teaching and training, and at worst came merely as a checklist of what to do when someone dies; pronounce the patient, call the family, call the medical examiner, call the organ donation network, fill out the worksheet. Check. Done. Next task.”

Read more on The True Cause of Death via JAMA.

Faculty / Resident Development Initiatives Grant Applications

Call for Proposals! The 2022-2023 Call for FRDIG Applications is now open!

The Faculty / Resident Development Initiatives Grant (FRDIG) is designed to support projects that aim to enhance the quality or scholarship of teaching in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. This year’s call is sponsored by the Office of Faculty Development and the Office of Respectful Environments, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

Letter of Intent can be downloaded by clicking here!

Important Dates:

  • Now: Applications are open for Letter of Intent
  • July 31, 2022: Letter of Intent due by 11:59pm
  • August 12, 2022: Applicants invited to the full application stage 
  • September 11, 2022: Full Application due by 11:59pm
  • September 30, 2022: Successful/all applicants are notified

This year, there are two streams for funding:

  • General stream
  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion stream

For details, visit here.

Tips & Tricks for Memory Retention

Edinburgh Seven by Artist Laurence Winram.
“Before lockdown I was commissioned by Edinburgh University medical school to reinterpret Rembrant’s painting, ‘The anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’. The university owns a copy painting of this that hangs by their anatomy museum just where we made this photograph. In our version the characters were replaced by all female medical students who represent the very first women students in Britain that were allowed to study medicine 150 years ago at Edinburgh University. Sad to say the women back then were not granted the honour of graduating, something the university rectified at a honorary degree ceremony for them last year.” More on Edinburgh Seven.

As residents begin a new year in their training and education, please see below a few tips and tricks for reinforcing memory retention:

+ Research indicates that content built around a narrative may contribute to both learning and retention. Read more on “See What Makes Storytelling So Effective For Learning?” via Harvard Business.

+ A few years ago I posted an article on “spaced repetition” or “microlearning” and how we are wired to quickly forget. Read more on “The New Way Doctors Learn: A simple technique dramatically improved the memory recall of Harvard Medical School students” via Time.

+ For visual learners, check out this 5-minute video on spaced repetition via Osmosis.

+ Sleep is critical for memory retention and learning. Learn more on how “Sleep enhances reconsolidation-based strengthening of visuospatial memories” via Nature.

+ The techniques you use to deliver your content and engage your audience are key. Active, inclusive participatory exercises have been found to build on learning and retention. Visit our Academic Half Day Preparation In-Class & Online for a few ideas.

Let me know in the comment section below if you have any additional tips and tricks you use to help with learning and retaining new content.