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Giving back to young arthritis sufferers

Giving back to young arthritis sufferers

At one of our student dinners earlier this year, I had an interesting conversation with a young woman named Molly Dushnicky. She told me about her interest in being a pediatric rheumatologist. In fact, one of my best friends is one of the top pediatric rheumatologists in the world: Ron Laxer, who you may remember from his recent guest blog on Rare Disease Day. Molly has connected with Ron and is currently seeking to do an elective rotation with him.

But there is more to Molly’s story than simply a med student who has her sights set on a specialty.

My office received an email a few weeks ago from a communications specialist at The Arthritis Society. She was writing to tell me about a young woman who had grown up with juvenile arthritis, whose experience has inspired her to become a pediatric rheumatologist. After years pursuing this dream, this young woman had earned a spot in medical school and is now in her first year here at Queen’s. That student is Molly.

For a healthcare professional, being a patient can be an eye-opening experience that can change your frame of mind. “Few experiences are more valuable to the physician than the experience of being a patient himself. Such an episode is worth a thousand lectures on the care of the patient.”1 Being in such a position can influence how you interact with your patients, how you engage your colleagues, and ultimately, it can change the way that you provide care.

John Leifer, an American healthcare administrator writes about his wife, Lori’s, experience of being diagnosed with the very thing that she treats: cancer. Following successful treatment and return to work, the way that she practiced medicine had shifted. “Lori continues to practice radiation oncology but brings a new perspective to her patients, honed through a brief yet arduous journey through cancer. Lori’s goal is to ensure that her patients have as much information as they wish to receive, and can reasonably process, about their disease; all delivered in an objective, but empathic manner. She believes that then, and only then, are they in a position to make truly informed decisions about their care.”2

Molly, who was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis when she was 18 months old, had only ever been on the patient side of care, and she was inspired by her experience to provide care for others. There is no doubt that her patient-perspective will provide unique and valuable insights as she trains to become a physician.

For today’s blog I would like to share with you an excerpt from a Queen’s Gazette story written by Andrew Carroll, about Molly’s journey to where she is today.

Molly Dushnicky has never really known a life without arthritis. However, as she points out, that has never slowed her down and is part of what drives her to help others.

“I don’t think I would be where I am and in the condition I am if I didn’t have such an absolutely fantastic team, and I really mean team, of health care professionals as I was growing up, the Thunder Bay native says. “It sounds really corny but I do really want to give back.”

A diagnosis like to one she received all those years ago is a difficult one, particularly for the parents, she explains. For the child it is a new reality, a life with periods of excruciating joint pain and swelling but also years where they can be primarily pain free. However, JIA takes its toll, on the sufferer and loved ones alike.

Part of it is coming to grips with the fact that you are different from your peers, something Ms. Dushnicky admits she struggled through her elementary and school years. But with support, she made it through, and volunteers with the Arthritis Society.

“It’s so inspiring to see someone like Molly, who has faced the challenge of arthritis for most of her life, committing herself to serving this community as a career,” says Joanne Simons, executive director, The Arthritis Society, Ontario Division. “Molly is an active supporter of The Arthritis Society and her enthusiasm and dedication are unwavering.”

Having lived with JIA will also help her when she achieves her “dream goal”.

“You do really need a lot of support. My family is fantastic so I have a lot of support with them. But anyone going through a chronic illness needs that mental and emotional support and it has to come from everybody – from your physician, from the nurses, your family,” she says.

After being diagnosed with JIA, Ms. Dushnicky was put on a treatment of low-dose methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug that also acts as an anti-inflammatory. However, it came at a cost as the drug also shuts down the immune system and made her feel generally unwell, much as a chemotherapy patient would.

She also was required to wear splints on her hands and legs which made her stand out when she first went to school. Fortunately here physiotherapist – on of those key members of her health team – came to her kindergarten class and explained her condition to her classmates. That little extra step helped break the barrier between Ms. Dushnicky and her classmates and provided a key early life lesson.

Click here to read the entire article, which appears on page 5 of the Queen’s Gazette and click here The Arthritis Society’s story about Molly.

Please share your thoughts by commenting on the blog, or better yet, drop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.

Richard

Thank you to Jen Valberg, Communications Coordinator, for her assistance in preparing this blog.

 

  1. http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=677965#References
  2. http://www.cancer.net/blog/2015-08/when-physician-becomes-patient-husband-recalls-his-wifes-journey-through-cancer

Trisha Parsons

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:41

Thank-you Richard for highlighting Molly’s story and for the links to the Arthritis Society article. This is truly an inspirational story.

Trisha Parsons

Richard

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:42

Thank you for your comment Trisha. Our students never cease to amaze, and it is always a pleasure to share their stories.

Richard

Richard

Trent Grof

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:43

Thank You Richard, Molly is my niece, I can tell you that this young lady is motivated beyond compare! She is what our world needs most as a physician and as a person! Whomever she treats in the years to come, will be in the most loving and capable hands we have to offer!

Trent Grof

Amro Qaddoura

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:44

Such an inspirational and humanizing story. Thank you for sharing, Dr. Reznick.
Good luck on your journey Molly! Your story is so motivational and encouraging. All the best Image removed.:) !

Amro Qaddoura

Terence Carscadden

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:45

I can relate to the value of a physician being a patient. My story is pale in comparison to Molly’s. I had osteomyelitis in my right ankle when I was 10 years old and had a sequestectromy. I had 5 recurrenses requiring im penicillin, starting the year it came out, 1944. The last recurrence I had was 1 week before I got married. Guess it was a good thing I got married!
Anyway, I sure knew about pain and relearning how to walk properly after an episode. Because of this I could easily empathize with patients who had pain, a tremendous advantage in patient care.
I wish Molly the very best and am sure that she will be a wonderful physician.
Terry Carscadden. Meds ’64

Terence Carscadden

Richard

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:45

Hi Terry,
I agree, it is a tremendous advantage to be able to empathize with your patients. Thank you for sharing your story.
Richard

Richard

Gillian Davis

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:46

I am a paediatric Physiotherapist and learned many things about being on the receiving end of service for my child when my 4-week old son had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks. While the health care providers were fairly caring and respectful, I was more than irritated by being called “Mom” by them all for the whole 2 weeks. I have learned always to find out a parent’s name and use it, both to their face and in my records. That was almost 13 years ago and I share this story with every student I help train and new colleagues. I thought I was a fairly enlightened professional but this opened my eyes. Molly will start her career with more insights than I had!

Gillian Davis

Hi Gillian,
Thank you for sharing this important lesson. Referring to a patient by name is essential in building a respectful, trusting relationship and I am glad that you share this with your students.
Richard

Richard

Mary Lou Boudreau

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:47

I’d like to comment on the experience of moving from being one of “us” (an OT clinician) to becoming one of “them” (the patient). We say that we don’t think of our patients as “them”, but when we are moved into that position, we realize the difference. I have late onset RA and I am an OT. At some point in my career I had to ask for accommodations. It was very hard to do. I’t hard to be the “elevator person”, when everyone else seems to take the stairs 2 at a time. One thing that I do now is volunteer with the interprofessional teaching group in their Patient Collaboration program, telling students from various disciplines what it is like. I also volunteer with the First Patient Program talking to Medical students. The more we can talk to students about realizing that they could easily be on the other side of the desk or the gurny, the better. I thank Molly for bringing that experience to her training, and sharing it with others in her class.

Mary Lou Boudreau

Richard

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:47

Thank you for sharing your story, Mary Lou, and I am happy that you are also sharing it with our medical students through the First Patient program.
Richard

Richard

Colleen

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:47

I’m a Masters student at the University of Calgary current doing research with children with oligoarticular JIA. A year ago I knew nothing about this disease and it deserves more attention! This was a great story to hear some positive outcomes from what can be a debilitating disease. Congratulations Molly on battling through and good luck!

Colleen

Jennifer Wilson

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:48

So many people have no idea just how common Juvenile Arthritis is or just how serious it can be. 3 in 1000 infants to teens in Canada have JIA and they suffer from a dramatic lack of resources, research and care. The specialists we do have in Canada are amazing and are recognized as world leaders in pediatric rheumatology, but we still need to make major increases in awareness and funding. We’re trying to do just that through our charity, Cassie & Friends Society in Vancouver, BC (cassieandfriends.ca). We support kids and their families through care and research, including a parent fund at the hospital, a loan cupboard, a school performance program, a parent-to-parent support program and an annual Family Day that’s now attended by well over 300. Thanks for sharing Molly’s story!

Jennifer Wilson

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