Third year Psychiatry resident honoured by Doctors of BC

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“Dr Arun Jagdeo (M.D., B.A., B.Sc.) is a third year UBC Psychiatry resident.  He has held a number of leadership roles in the areas of health promotion, and  physician advocacy and wellness– especially impressive in view of the early stage of his career.  Through his work with the Canadian Association of Interns & Residents, the BC Psychiatric Association, and currently in his role as President of the Professional Association of Residents of BC, Dr Jagdeo uses his strengths and skills to bring issues such as physician recruitment and retention, the provision of culturally sensitive care, and the management of medical student debt to the attention of the provincial government.” – Doctors of BC

Recently, Dr. Jagdeo was awarded one of the first ever Doctors of BC Change Maker Awards, which recognizes winners for their work in improving the health care system for patients and those who work in it.  We asked Dr. Jagdeo what this honour means to him and how he hopes to continue his work helping the patients to whom he is so committed.  Congratulations, Dr. Jagdeo!


Describe what it means to be awarded Doctors of BC’s first-ever change maker award?

Thrilled. I’m really happy to see that the Doctors of BC are recognizing the hard work and effort of residents.

What drives your passion in medicine?

My calling to Medicine was later in life than most students, and so my reasons for wanting to pursue it were the product of a great deal of intensive thought and soul-searching. I see the physician’s work as a calling and not a job, and this really is the engine that drives my motivation for a better health care system and better patient care. I see physicians as healers, not mere ‘service’ providers and, as such, I view us as persons who hold a great deal of power. Wielding this power responsibly requires ethics, duty, and a sense of accountability. As a profession, Medicine has offered me a great many opportunities for personal growth and contribution to society, and in return, I am compelled to help make our profession the symbol for all that is good in the world.

Which patients do you hope to help most in your practice?

All patients come to see physicians for help and it is unethical to turn anyone away. Ones who I would better hope to serve, however, are those who are disenfranchised the most. Immigrant and refugee communities often face many barriers to good health above and beyond those faced by more well-established communities. Lower socioeconomic status, education, language, stigma, and cross-cultural understanding are just a few such examples.

I speak Hindi and Punjabi and, being born in India, I have an intimate knowledge of South Asian culture, which led me to work with Dr. Rajpal Singh in raising awareness about mental health issues through such forums as South Asian radio. I have also been involved in raising such awareness, and the provision of psychoeducation, through a South Asian women’s group. When I transition into practice, it is my hope to take on as regular patients many of the individuals I have encountered through such work. I am also interested in Addictions work within the South Asian community. Having lived almost my entire life in Manitoba, and having attended medical school there, I was trained in an environment that was exquisitely sensitive to aboriginal health issues and also more explicitly addressed issues surrounding rural and northern health care. A great many people are working to address these issues at UBC, which is very much engaged in the conversation on diversity. I hope to work to help address these issues going forward.

How do you see yourself as an advocate for your peers, patients or community? In what ways have you tried to make changes?

As a resident, see myself as an advocate for all three. I am a firm believer in the superior quality of Canadian post-graduate medical education programs, which is really only achieved through a rigorous process of introspection and quality improvement. For this reason, I have been very much involved in the area of educational improvement through the Royal College survey process. I have also advocated for enhanced educational quality and other issues through the Canadian Association of Interns and Residents, Medical Council of Canada, CMA, Doctors of BC and the British Columbia Psychiatric Association. My greatest efforts, however, have been expended at the Professional Association of Residents of British Columbia, which represents the residents of BC in many key areas. Our scope at PAR-BC ranges from individual resident issues to province-wide resident representation in such vital areas as Health Human Resources. When the Royal College employment report was published, for instance, PAR-BC offered a key response that was published in the Vancouver Sun.

With respect to patients, each and every case you see in your clinic is an opportunity to advocate. This can take the form of active advocacy in individual cases (e.g., addressing social and economic determinants of health). Opportunity for advocacy can also present while teaching medical students. I will often challenge medical students I work with to provide me with as comprehensive a list of social and psychological interventions as possible before even listing a medication, in effect encouraging them to know their patients well and to ensure that treatment is holistic. My hope is that this learning will feed forward through these medical students to those they teach down the road.

Shortly after coming to the lower mainland, I discovered a dearth of understanding about mental health issues, particularly in the Indo-Canadian community. I’ve been working hard to address this. I am most proud of my work with Indo-Canadian radio, through which I continue to raise awareness of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, abuse, etc., reaching through Hindi and Punjabi a wide audience that often has little understanding of mental health.

What advice do you have for future physicians who want to make a difference in their communities?

I really feel fortunate to be a part of a profession that provides tremendous opportunity and ability to make a difference in people’s lives. I think we often lose sight of this when we’re bogged down by responsibility, which there is plenty of in Medicine. Regardless, I do believe it to be central to the work of physicians to continually participate in the improvement of their communities. We know that socioeconomic indicators are a major determinant of the health of a population, as are food security, clean air and water, and accessibility of services within a well-functioning health care system. As such, these issues demand our attention. It would be presumptuous of me to give advice in this area, since I really feel I am only following my passion. What I can offer, though, are some cursory personal lessons I have learned so far along the way:

1)  Don’t limit your imagination

2)  Always remember that change is inevitable

3)  Expect resistance

4)  A “no” is an invitation for a more creative solution

5)  Meet people

6)  Always ask for advice

7)  Look for like-minded individuals

8)  Build coalitions