Happy 2020, Residents! Resident Spotlight is back for its third year, and we are starting things off with Dr. Lois Addo, a PGY-2 in Family Medicine. Dr. Addo holds an interest in palliative care, and has a background in pharmacy, both of which we were happy to chat with her about.
My early experiences in medicine are what drew me to palliative care. At the start of medical school, I stumbled onto a number of books in popular literature that explored the concepts of death and dying in medicine. Intrigued, I arranged an elective in palliative care. During my elective, I was blown away by the warmth and kindness of the palliative care team and the dedication they displayed to their patients. As I gained more exposure to palliative care, I found that I enjoyed the work in a way that I hadn’t on other rotations. Palliative care work felt meaningful. I liked the focus on quality of life, and found fulfillment helping patients and their families meet their goals at the end of life. I also loved the balanced, team-based approach to patient care. It was clear that each team member played a crucial role and was valued for their contribution. By the time I completed the elective, I knew I wanted to incorporate palliative medicine into my practice.
You also have a background in pharmacy. Can you tell us a bit more about that, and the relationship that exists for you between the two fields?
Yes, I completed a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy prior to medical school. While I never practiced as a pharmacist, I worked in pharmacies throughout my training. Between work, lectures and practicum training, I developed a working knowledge of pharmacology, therapeutics and the practical aspects of pharmacy workflow. These experiences were extremely valuable as I transitioned to a career in medicine. As a family medicine trainee, I constantly rely on my pharmacy training when prescribing or talking to patients about medications. The relationship between pharmacy and medicine is even more pronounced within palliative care. Medications are an integral part of the palliative physicians’ toolkit. When patients present with symptoms, targeted management with the right medication can be used to reduce morbidity and improve their quality of life. On palliative care rotations, I often find my-self referring to my old pharmacy lecture notes and reference textbooks as I work through the best way to manage a particular symptom. Truly, I think that the two fields are complementary.
Residency has been a blur and it is difficult to believe that it’s coming to an end. I have so many treasured memories, from spending time with other residents, to getting to know the clinic, hospital and administration staff, to building relationships with my patients. It feels incredible to reflect back on all these experiences and think about how far I have come since the beginning of medical school. When I think about my most memorable experiences in residency, I think it is my “firsts” – the first time I was on call alone, the first time I managed a sick patient, the first time I ran a clinic alone, and the first time I delivered a baby – that stand out from everything else. These moments were the moments that I felt that I was becoming a proficient physician.
Lastly, what are your plans for the future after the conclusion of your residency?
The end of residency marks the first time in a long time that the future feels uncertain. While I am nervous, I am looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead. After residency, I plan to locum around the province to gain exposure to rural and urban medicine in a variety of settings, plus learn more about how I want to shape my career. I want to incorporate palliative medicine into my career and, down the road, I plan to complete a palliative medicine fellowship, where I can develop the skills I need to work with palliative medicine patients and their families. I am extremely excited for this next chapter of my life!