The CFMS–MD Financial Management Leadership Awards recognize passionate, dedicated and caring medical student leaders throughout Canada who have made innovative contributions to their schools and communities.
The sense of trust between patients and doctors is something that Yaeesh Sardiwalla, a fourth-year medical student at Dalhousie University, thinks about a lot. It was during the transition into his second year of medical school when he first noticed patient’s veneration for the therapeutic figure. There was a sense of security with a physician wearing a stethoscope that was more evident than with family members or friends who they have shared a lifetime of experiences with. Instead of instilling in him a misplaced sense of self-regard, that dynamic caused him to appraise the magnitude of the responsibility of how doctors ought to practice—and how they’re taught. “Transitioning into clinical care during clerkship, you begin to recognize your value as a health-care provider,” Yaeesh says, “and the great responsibility that comes with it.”
Yaeesh was born in Durban, South Africa, a city which has as its motto: debile principium melior fortuna sequitur. Roughly translated, this means: “from humble beginnings better fortunes follow.” And no better phrase encapsulates Yaeesh’s journey as a fourth-year med student. He has maintained his humble perspective by staying true to what he believes are the fundamental tenets of the doctor/patient relationship. “Society has placed an inherent trust in physicians to respect, empathize, protect and treat all patients equitably,” Yaeesh says. “As medical students, we have the duty to advocate accordingly.”
A desire to empower patients to be better decision-makers is what compelled Yaeesh to join the Choosing Wisely Canada (CWC) campaign, which promotes patient safety by raising awareness about the dangers of unnecessary tests and investigations with patients and healthcare providers. He sees that there is an implicit – and sometimes explicit – expectation that trainees should anticipate the staff’s next move, and demonstrate their knowledge and curiosity by doing extensive workups. But Yaeesh seeks to change that. The first step? Reminding trainees that they have first committed to doing no harm. “Much of what we are taught during medical school does not abide by the Hippocratic Oath’s focus on communication and shared-decision making,” Yaeesh argues.
His involvement with the CWC wasn’t the first time Yaeesh demonstrated a passion for improving healthcare from the ground up. Yaeesh was involved with raising awareness for Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day in Halifax, which aims to provide patients with information about breast reconstruction options following cancer treatments. BRA day can be the catalyst to a transformative journey that is key to restoring confidence and quality of life for some patients.
After volunteering at the Eskasoni and Membertou Wellness Centers in Nova Scotia, he saw firsthand that there were great strides to be made in how the health care system and associated political bodies engages with First Nations communities.
These rural experiences solidified his belief in the importance of listening to patients and developing a truly comprehensive understanding of the issues they’re facing. And this belief is what led him to participate in a media awareness campaign in which he addressed the stigmatization of addiction, the opioid crisis, and the need for harm reduction programs. “My philosophy for leadership recognizes its roots in empathy and community.”
Ultimately, for Yaeesh, it all comes down to raising awareness about the importance of a patient’s role in medical decision-making. The pin he wears on his lab coat reads: “Ask me about Choosing Wisely.” And people do. Yaeesh has had many conversations with curious patients, and they’ve all been won over by the young medical student who so deeply values – and advocates for – their unique personal perspective on health and wellbeing.
“A culture shift is needed, and student commitment is an essential ingredient to empowering great involvement in patient-centered decision making. As the next generation of healthcare providers, we have a responsibility towards the healthcare system in which we will be practicing medicine.”
Yaeesh Sardiwalla is a fourth-year medical student at Dalhousie University. He was born in Durban, South Africa and moved to Cape Breton in 2010 where he completed high school. He studied Neuroscience during his undergraduate degree in Halifax before starting medical school. When he is not doing research, studying or engaged in community advocacy, Yaeesh can be found playing cricket, soccer or squash. He played competitive cricket at a national junior level before moving to Canada. Yaeesh continues to return to South Africa annually and has been able to strengthen a global surgery partnership which he has developed a keen interest in.
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