This month we interviewed Dr. Brandon Tang and Dr. Meiying Zhuang. Dr. Brandon Tang is a former RDBC Board Director who is now a General Internal Medicine Fellow at the University of Toronto as well as a MMSc-Med Ed Candidate at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Meiying Zhuang is a RDBC Internal Medicine resident and the current Chief Medical Resident at St. Paul’s Hospital. We chatted with Drs. Tang and Zhuang about their experiences bringing Vancouver Notes, a novel medical textbook for internal medicine trainees, to publication. First conceptualized several years ago, Vancouver Notes was awarded the 2020 RDBC Resident Innovation Fund for Resident Projects and eventually developed through the efforts of more than 90 resident physicians and faculty members at the University of British Columbia. In 2018 and 2021, we also had the chance to interview Dr. Tang on his experiences with app developments as well as TEDx talks. If you’re also interested in those, be sure to check out the articles here (2018, 2021). If you are interested in the RDBC Resident Innovation Fund, please check out the RIF page here!
We have heard that Vancouver Notes, a point-of-care guide for Internal Medicine trainees you developed with partial funding from the 2020 RDBC Resident Innovation Fund, has now been launched! Could you tell us a little more about Vancouver Notes– how you first came up with the idea, how you came to the RIF with the idea, and how you were able to bring it to publication?
When you’re starting out in med school or residency, it’s hard to know where to start when doing consults for the first time. As well, we found that most traditional resources didn’t outline content in the format we practice day-to-day (e.g., Past Medical History, History of Presenting Illness, Physical Exam, etc.). We wanted to fill this void and so Vancouver Notes was born!
The inspiration for this resource came from our own experiences as physician learners. This novel medical textbook consists of consult guides (e.g., history / physical exam / investigations / management) that provide learners with an organized approach to common presentations in internal medicine (e.g., chest pain, pancreatitis). It was developed by nearly 100 residents and staff physicians at UBC.
We were quite nervous when we approached our publisher, Brush Education, for the first time. Fortunately, they loved the idea and almost three years later now, Vancouver Notes is hitting bookshelves across Canada!
Creating a new book is a complex task and requires a clear vision, leadership and editorial oversight, and knowledge translation to ensure it reaches users (medical trainees in our case). We were fortunate to be able to rally the passion and knowledge of our colleagues to create a credible, practical, and comprehensive resource. Funding from the RIF has been crucial every step of the way and we are grateful for RDBC’s support.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced while working on Vancouver Notes, especially as you were also navigating through the other challenges of residency (e.g., passing your exams and securing a fellowship)?
The book involved contributions from nearly 100 residents and faculty members at UBC. So naturally, coordinating their combined efforts was a challenge. We went through multiple rounds of editing with the authors and had close communication with our publisher throughout.
Residency presents its own unique challenges, but the Vancouver Notes project was something that we were passionate about and felt addressed an important need. We essentially worked on it in waves, with large bursts of work focused during the (rare) quiet moments we had during residency.
The dedication of our contributors to the long process was crucial in carrying this book to successful publication. To accommodate for everyone’s busy schedules (exam studying, CaRMS 2.0, etc.), we tried to be both firm and flexible in setting deadlines to move things forward – sometimes this meant multiple reminders, but we are so grateful for everyone’s hard work.
Our advice to others would be to maintain a high-level vision of what needs to be done to move the project from start to finish – mentorship is key for this and fortunately, members of our core leadership team had prior experience in medical publishing to help guide us.
What are you most proud of regarding the Vancouver Notes project? What were some of the best moments and experiences?
We are most proud of taking an idea (creating a book of consult guides) and seeing that through to completion, from leading a team of nearly 100 people to securing a national publishing deal. Hundreds of emails and dozens of spreadsheets later, we’re so excited to see the book in print (which is our best memory)!
Looking ahead, we see this as a legacy project that future generations of residents can continue contributing to, so the book will continue to evolve and expand over the years.
Do you have any tips and advice for residents who hope to one day start their own projects, or have already begun working on some projects with RIF funding?
The main advice we have is that good ideas come from unexpected places. The idea for Vancouver Notes came during a call shift when we envisioned how a resource like this book would have been tremendously useful.
After you have an idea, it’s important to seek out mentorship from those who have an idea of how to implement it. Once you get started, don’t give up! It took us over three years to complete the book, but we are so proud of our team and how far we have come.