On the Importance of Connection: Clinics and Covid-19

This post shares some of my reflections on Summer 2021 as the Leadership Development component of my Laidlaw Scholarship.

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It's hard to believe that I am writing this reflection on my nearly complete second summer with the Laidlaw Scholars Programme! When I think back to when I was applying, and dreaming about all of the things I could do with this opportunity, I didn't ever quite expect I would be spending it in my own community, but alas with covid-19, that has been my reality. 

It has however, been an incredible experience nonetheless, as I've been able to develop as a leader in the context of my hometown, and see the impacts that this has had on the people, including friends and family, around me. 

This summer, I've been working with a local research group recruiting patients for clinical trials, helping increase vaccination numbers in local clinicsa, developing tools for health literacy https://www.colchesterresearchgroup.net/mondays-with-marik and collecting data on experiences with the health care system that will someday, hopefully help to shape the system in my province for the better. It's been challenging, as I've been given a lot of independence and control over what tasks I want to see completed and initiates I want to get off of the ground. In this experience, I've had to be a strong self leader as well, in order to make sure that the projects I am working on are completed according to the timeline set. As well, I've been working with community members, fellow medical students, and a mosaic of different doctors, nurses and public health professionals, and with each, learned new things about myself and how to interact with them. I've been able to develop my skills as a communicator within the medical field, as I've had to navigate vaccine hesitancy, frustrations with access to care and lack of knowledge about medical conditions. 

Empathy, understanding and authenticity- these are the pillars that have governed my leadership experience this summer. Whether it is with patients or fellow staff I am working with, these components have proven essential in my ability to connect with people. It is these connections that are the foundation of the work I have been doing, as in order to have a good consultation with a patient, or working environment with another leader, good connections need to be forged and sustained. 

I truly believe that a lot of the training I've had through Laidlaw over the past two years have really shaped how I conduct myself, interact with others and make decisions when in a leadership role. By knowing my strengths and weaknesses, as well as my leadership style, I am more efficient and effective in the actions I take. By listening to the successes and struggles of other fellow leaders, as well as tips and tricks of the trade, I've been able to hone in on what works for me, and what doesn't. Above all, getting to employ these strategies in an environment that means so much to me, such as the health care of my own town, has been so rewarding. I am so thankful and humbled to have been on this Laidlaw  journey!

Marika Schenkels

Student, University of St. Andrews

I am a first year medical student at the University of St. Andrews with an interest in community, maternal and global health. Growing up in a small rural town has fostered my interest in preventative health care and illustrated to me the importance of having a health system that works together, throughout all tiers and levels. When I'm not in Scotland or talking about medicine, you can find me at home in Canada with my friends and family; hiking, surfing or spending time outside!