Family Mission Statement

Over the course of the last year or two we’ve been faced with a lot of major decisions.  Sometimes, as a couple/family, you find yourself unsure of whether the steps you’ve taken are the best ones for your future, or if they even line up with what you really value.  During Kathryn’s blog-reading a while back, she came upon a post by one of her favourite bloggers, Tsh (Tim pronounces it like the noise when the seal on a shaken pop bottle is broken) at SimpleMom.

You can check the post out yourself, but basically it’s all about creating a family Mission Statement.  The idea is that you put some serious time into discussing what your long (and short) term priorities are, your core values, your personal dreams and desires, and then you pack it all into a brief statement that you can reference when making life decisions.  It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal every time you bring it out, only to be used at epic moments… think of it more like a quick check to help you determine whether or not an action you’re considering is worth pursuing in the grand scheme of things.

So, over the last 3 weeks or so we’ve worked on identifying our priorities and desires, and summarized them in the following statement:

“As a family, it is our desire to live life in such a way that we:

  • are led by faith in God
  • serve and connect with one another and our community
  • strive for simplicity in terms of possessions and lifestyle
  • seek out the adventures that life has to offer

We believe that following these guiding principles, and bringing our daily needs and decisions before God in prayer, will help us remain focused on our goals and enjoy life to the fullest.”

As you can see, the core values we agreed upon were Faith, Service, Connection, Simplicity, and Adventure.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t totally sold on the idea when Kathryn first mentioned it to me, but now that we’ve got the thing laid out it’s kind of nice to refer back to when faced with various circumstances.  It’s helped us identify some aspects of our lives that have been lacking, thus leading to dissatisfaction.

I hope you find this interesting, and feel free to take the same approach in your own households.  Just make sure to give credit to Tsh, and say her name out loud just for fun (the way Tim does, not the way Kathryn would: Tish).

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Thoughts on Canadian Health Care

Warning… this is a bit of a rant 🙂  As Canadians, we tend to be pretty accepting of most things:

  • Poor customer service? “Oh, he’s probably just having a bad day, we all do from time to time…I’m only giving him a 10% tip”
  • Government hikes to sales/income tax? “Well, what can you do?  Besides, we need to fund our great social programs somehow”
  • 8-hour wait time at the hospital when suffering from a serious sinus infection? “I don’t have a family doctor, so what choice do I have?  At least it’s free”

We can be pretty passive.  The process of looking internationally for medical school opportunities has led me to all kinds of interesting places, which in turn has opened my eyes to the possibility that Canada may not, in fact, be the greatest place to live.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for many privileges and blessings I have as a Canadian, including but not limited to: nearly universal access to basic education right up to high school, publicly funded (not free) healthcare, a generally kind population, freedom of speech/religion/expression, and poutine.  However, there are still things we lack, some of which actually exist in other parts of the world, including quick and efficient access to doctors and medical services.  Even though sometimes this comes at a cost – up front – to the consumer.

Yeah, I’m going there.  You see, the more I think about (and research) the medical profession and all that’s involved, the more I come to realize that nothing in this world is free (theological implications aside).  I think as Canadians it would actually do us a whole lot of good to scrap the perception that we live in a country with “free” health care.  The fact is, most of us pay 1/4 of our income or more to benefit from our medical system, among other things, and that’s a lot of money when you add it up.  Let’s say you make a mere $12 an hour and pay 15% income tax.  Even that adds up to almost $2 per HOUR that goes to the government.  Over the course of a year, working full-time, that’s over $3700.00 (I know this is a horrible example, since I haven’t accounted for the basic amounts you can claim, etc., etc.).  Most of us probably pay $1000, give or take a few hundred, for auto and home insurance each year; why not open the market to private health insurance providers and pay a similar premium for that coverage, leaving us with more money in our pockets?

The thing we need to realize is that Medicare IS an insurance provider – that’s exactly what they are, and there’s NO competition (by law) in the market, so the service can be as poor, sloppy, and inefficient as all get-out, but nobody’s there to oust them.  Studies and reports have shown that Canada performs among the worst (some years the very worst) of developed nations in terms of customer experience and value for money when it comes to health care, and that a socialist (i.e. non-competitive) model for health care is likely a root cause.  Instead of getting all fired up about a two-tiered medical system and losing our “free” medical care, we need to acknowledge the real cost of our system and work towards changing it.  Check out these stats, from a 2010 publication by the Canadian Medical Association:

  • Canada ranks 26 of 30 industrialized countries based on our ratio of physicians to population.
  • An OECD study of countries with wait times shows that the availability of physicians has the strongest association with lower wait times.
  • The average age of a Canadian physician is 51 years old; 38% of physicians are over the age of 55, representing more than 26,000 physicians.
  •  The Canadian Nurses Association is projecting a shortage of 60,000 full‐time equivalent nurses in Canada by 2022 if no new policies are adopted.

I found the average age of physicians especially striking – think about it, that means HALF of the physicians practicing in this country are over the age of 51, and will likely be retiring within 10 years or less, give or take a few years, depending on their personal circumstances.  Even if they want to retire later, CBC’s White Coat Black Art recently had an interesting piece (link to podcast, mp3) about how some doctors are being forced into retirement due to clinical concerns that arise with old age…

Anyway, I got side-tracked for a while and I’m just getting back to this, but one last point I want to bring up is this: considering the poor ratings we’ve had internationally in terms of value and quality of health care, combined with the relative lack of young physicians, why doesn’t Canada make it easier for aspiring young’uns like me to get into the field?  According to CaRMS, the agency that hooks up new MD grads with residencies, only about 1 in 4 QUALIFIED applicants is accepted to a Canadian medical school each year, and it takes an average of over 2 years (2.59 application cycles) for the ones who do get in (more details here – PDF).  I believe these are just a couple of symptoms of a weak and crippled health care philosophy, which is somehow contemporaneously well-funded but delivers lower than average results.  If the market was open for competition, and we had a choice of where we wanted to invest our dollars and receive care, perhaps Canadians would feel more accountable for their own health care (and health), and hospitals (which are businesses, after all) would do more to make themselves attractive to patients (i.e. improve service).  Of course, a safety net would still be required for those who have potential to fall through the cracks, so a complete withdrawal of public funding would not be realistic.

I leave you with this article, which talks about how Dalhousie University has been basically forced to sell seats to international students just to cope with budgetary constraints.  It’s easy to blame the school for having such a short-sighted vision (since it’s certain that these students will not stay in Canada to practice), but it’s just another reflection of our current state of health care and where priorities lie.  For the full text, see here.  I know as a Canadian student currently on the wait list for Dal, this was painful to read.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on health care in Canada.  Also, any opinions out there on which party is presenting the best health care platform for the upcoming election?

The one-page story of why I want to be a physician

As the title suggests, this is the one-page version of my story, on why I want to be a physician:

“For many years I was convinced I was more into the physical sciences than life sciences. In high school I loved physics and math, and in my second year of university I found the study of the Earth so fascinating that I switched majors, from Physics to Geology. The creative and exploratory aspects of Geology especially appealed to me; there was room to interpret and imagine, whereas Physics seemed to be nailed down already into well-established theories, formulae and laws.

It was not until my final year of university that I decided to give Biology a try. I chose an elective called Human Biology, and discovered a subject far more captivating than rocks and tectonic plates: the human body. Learning about the incredible ways our bodies develop, are maintained, and become subjected to diseases and disorders, sparked a surprisingly strong interest in a career in medicine. However, by that point I already had experience and an established network of contacts in Geology, so upon graduation I did the “sensible” thing and moved to Labrador to work for the Iron Ore Company of Canada, in mining and exploration.

Despite the fact that the work was interesting (and the pay was great), I found myself frequently wondering what it would be like to study and practice medicine. Rather than subsiding, my curiosity surrounding the medical profession increased, and I began to read articles from medical journals and biographies of physicians. In my heart, I was not content imagining a career that consisted entirely of finding mineral deposits and exploiting resources. I felt like it was too far removed from my passions, and a meaningless application of my skills.

The turning point came in July of 2009, while on vacation in Newfoundland with my wife, Kathryn. It was during that trip that I had the life-changing opportunity to visit a museum dedicated to Sir Wilfred Grenfell and his medical mission to Labrador, spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sir Grenfell had a remarkably holistic understanding of human wellness, and is credited with saving thousands of lives through his medical work, fund raising, practical solutions to poverty, and encouraging spirit. At the end of the visit, I told Kathryn that I knew I had to become a physician, and that is the goal I have been working towards ever since.

In late 2009 I returned to my home province of New Brunswick, where I found a job as a Personal Support Worker with Bayshore Home Health. While the job turned out to be unsustainable – in terms of providing for my family’s needs – it confirmed for me that there is great satisfaction in living a life of service through health care provision. During the same time period I began volunteering weekly in the Paediatric ward of the local hospital, which I continue to do today. This experience has given me the chance to bring joy to kids in the midst of hardship, and has taught me that even in the face of great pain and uncertainty, the will to live and enjoy life is almost indomitable.

I truly believe each person deserves as full and healthy a life as possible, and that as a physician I would be equipped to play a more active role in the well-being of individuals and communities. I know that I will not be able to “fix” everyone, and sometimes I will lose people who I have come to care for, even as I did while working for Bayshore. For me, however, becoming a physician is not about fixing every problem; it’s about being there for people whenever they need someone to trust, to care for them, and to support them through the stages of life. To an extent I agree with the popular analogy that a doctor is like a mechanic for people; however, my understanding of the role also demands a significant pastoral aspect. When I look back on my life, this is the kind of contribution I want to have made, and accomplishing this would be far greater than finding any amount of gold, silver, or iron.”

Spicy Lentil Dahl

We really enjoy Indian style food at our house and the depth of flavours that all of those spices together create. I was actually looking for a recipe to use up some red lentils that I had and came across this one. The recipe uses very simple ingredients, all of which I had on hand (I do have a pretty extensive spice collection though), and it was really quick to throw together. I actually served it on rice because it was less like a soup and more like a curry. This turned out to be a delicious combo and I would definitely make it again. It is now one of our Family Favourites . Just in case you are worried, it’s not super spicy at all, you could make it so with more cayenne pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 1 T. sesame oil or, alternatively, olive oil (I used canola)
  • 1 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 T. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth (I used veggie)
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 t. coriander
  • 1 t. tumeric
  • ¼ t. cardamom
  • ¼ t. cinnamon
  • ¼ t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 t. salt, or to taste
  • 2 T. tomato paste (I actually used a whole 156ml can, you could even omit this because it’s still delicious without, the tomato paste does make it a nice colour though.)

Preparation:

In a 3-quart stockpot or other medium-sized soup pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.

Stirring constantly, add the water or broth, lentils, spices and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are very tender.

Stir in the tomato paste until well combined. Cook several minutes more, or until the soup is desired temperature and consistency, adding more water to the dahl if needed. (I left it quite thick and not very soup-like but it was delicious served on the rice.) Makes about 4 servings.

Enjoy!

Delish!


More Photos

We’ve been feeling the “adventure itch” lately. This doesn’t really mean much because we don’t have the finances to go anywhere, but it’s got us thinking about international med schools again…

In other news I think we have the cutest baby on earth.  Here’s some proof!

Tim set up the hammock!

She loves the rocking chair!

Barrettes will stay in her hair now

Robeez

My little cutie