What competitive sports can teach us about being better health practitioners

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Since she was a child, VGH emergency physician Meghan Grant has dreamed of representing her country at international sports competitions. The desire to don a uniform with a maple leaf was a goal she spent many years pursuing, often having to choose between her love of medicine and the deep passion she has for competing. Dr. Grant shared her journey and her realization that we are stronger when we support each other at a recent Vancouver Physician Staff Association (VPSA) Unique Lives in Medicine luncheon.

A champion cyclist

Dr. Grant made many sacrifices for her chosen sport: track cycling. Her golden moment came at the 2017 Pan American cycling championships: she was a member of Canada’s team pursuit squad, which bested Mexico for the top prize.

“That medal was a symbol of a much greater victory,” said Dr. Grant. “We have already won when we honour the voice within us, which asks “what if?” We win every time we try again after failing, and every time we find the courage to face our fears.”

Overcoming our cognitive biases

Others have often asked Dr. Grant if there are special skills or qualities needed to transition successfully between fields.

“I couldn’t come up with any,” she told the assembled physicians at her VPSA presentation, “everyone in this room has that ability. But,” she emphasized, “we do have cognitive biases and I had to become aware of these and change the way I thought about them.”

The three factors that Dr. Grant identified are:

  1. Imagination – believing something is possible; the ‘what if’
  2. Developing introspection – moving beyond your identity and facing your fears
  3. Interdependence – together we rise

“These are vital to success,” she said. “We succeed when we engage our colleagues as unique and complex humans; we win every time we support each other.”

Dr. Grant sees this every day in her work, especially when she evaluates emergency physician residents.

“We need to see them as a whole,” she said. “They need to reach high standards but we must also allow them to be human.”

Visit Dr. Grant’s website here.

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