Happy June, Residents!
On the tail end of May, we are bringing you our monthly Resident Spotlight with Dr. Daniel Ting. Dr. Ting is a PGY-4 Emergency Medicine Resident busy not only with residency, but also currently interning with CJEM (Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine) and working as an editor at CanadiEM (an online community for emergency care practitioners). He also recently presented via recording at the UBC Research Day on his experiences with CJEM—so for any Residents particularly interested in getting involved with writing and/or broadcasting in the medical field, this one is especially for you!
You are currently involved in both CJEM as an intern and CanadiEM, as an editor and leading the “Great Evidence in Medical Education Summary” series. What was it that inspired you to become involved in these particular avenues of medical discourse?
I’ve always had passions for writing and science. When I was a first-year undergraduate student at McGill, I found an intersection between these two interests in scientific journals. I applied to be an editor at the McGill Science Undergraduate Research Journal and was fortunate to be selected. Over the next few years, I learned about peer-review, editing and journal operations. This experience left an indelible impression on me, and sparked an interest in research.
I went to medical school at Queen’s where I became interested in Emergency Medicine. During this time, I had the opportunity to be a summer research student. Being able to take ownership of a research question, come up with an answer and have the work published was a way to have long-term goals to balance out the short-term patient interactions in the Emergency Department.
The residency match brought me to the UBC-Kelowna site, where I was one of the first two Royal College residents. Training in an environment without an established resident hierarchy was a once-in-a-generation opportunity and fit well with my ability to self-direct my learning goals. However, one early challenge was bridging the informal teaching gap of not having any senior residents locally. I started learning about the world of medical knowledge sharing through social media in a new community called Free Open-Access Medical Education (FOAM). I was immediately convinced that FOAM was not only a solution to my local challenges, but also saw that it was the future of medical education. Around this time, I met Drs. Teresa Chan and Brent Thoma who at that time were just starting the CanadiEM blog platform. Despite a fairly thin resume at the time, they brought me on as an editor and invested in my growth in academics. This experience helped me develop skills in knowledge translation and qualitative research, which allowed me to stand out from my colleagues. I think that was a big factor in convincing the CJEM Editorial Board that I could be an asset to the Journal!
Has being involved in academic writing and/or editing left an impact on the way you practice medicine?
One of the main ways is that I’m just much more aware of the medical literature. During my review of papers, I’m often reading not only that particular paper, but also surrounding literature in the topic area. This helps me integrate new evidence to update my clinical practice. The process of writing is also a powerful metacognitive strategy that encourages clear thought patterns by forcing prioritized, succinct arguments.
I think another way has been being more attuned to notice variation in clinical practice. A research mentor once told me that if you can find variation in practice, you’ve found a research question. For me this works backwards too–because I am often thinking about research, I find I seek out different ways to approach the same problem. I think this has helped me realize that there often isn’t a perfect way, and that each approach has its pros and cons. Because of this mentality, I think I am more accommodating of different approaches that my mentors, colleagues and students use, and use this as a way to springboard discussion behind the rationale for the chosen approach.
I plan on staying involved with both organizations. Recently, I have been offered by CJEM to stay on as a Decision Editor after I finish residency, which is exciting news. CanadiEM has been great to me in not only connecting me to leaders in medical education across the country, but also giving me a supportive path to get started in academia. Over the past year or so, my role at CanadiEM has already started shifting to taking on mentorship responsibilities. I would like to pass forward the guidance my mentors have given me to empower others to have similar positive experiences.
Recently, you presented at the UBC EM Research Day on “Implementation of an Editorial Internship at CJEM”. How was your experience with that?
Research Days are great opportunities to celebrate the huge amount of work that people put into their projects, to network and to get inspired with new ideas. I actually presented using a recording as I was on elective in Cape Town the day of the event. Even though I always have a bit of trepidation when it comes to technology-assisted presentations, I was told everything went pretty smoothly.
In terms of the project itself, I was talking about the rationale, curriculum and lessons learned during my year as the first Editorial Intern at CJEM. Peer-review is a backbone of science and is how we maintain a quality standard and trustworthiness of our published findings. Despite this, most reviewers and editors are never trained for their positions, and being able to write a great review or decision letter takes more than just being a content expert. Studies show that brief educational interventions or modules fail in making a difference in the ability to peer-review, so we hypothesized that a longitudinal experience with one-on-one mentorship would be more impactful. We had a successful first year and CJEM has now committed to continuing this opportunity on an annual basis. I think many of the lessons we learned about peer-review and journal operations could and should be adapted into medical education curricula at the postgraduate level.
Do you have any recommendations or advice for Residents reading, who may be interested in getting involved with platforms such as CJEM and CanadiEM, or broadcasting and writing within medicine in general?
The main advice I would give is that there are so many ways to incorporate writing within medicine. My experience is just one way. I have colleagues who are involved in journalism, book-writing, anthropology, administrative work, and many other fields. The key things are to identify mentors and organizations/institutions that can support you! Most mentors are more than happy to set up a meeting and talk about ways they got to where they are. With digital technologies, it’s never been easier to connect with people even over long distances and across time zones.
If people have any questions for me, feel free to contact me on Twitter (@tingdan)!
Thank you to Dr. Ting for taking the time to speak with us! We look forward to seeing you all once again for June’s Resident Spotlight.