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“Growing Together: A New Physician’s Reflections on Family Medicine”, Interview with Dr. Si Jia Wang

Dr. Si Jia Wang

Dr. Si Jia Wang is a recently graduated family physician who completed her training at the University of Toronto Medical School and Family Residency Program. She is dedicated to providing quality care to her patients at Creditview Medical, in addition to pursuing her passions for women’s health and medical education. As a clinical skills tutor, Dr. Wang hopes to nurture the next generation of medical students on their journey towards maturing into physicians full of excellence and kindness.

Q: What drew you to become a family physician?

My interest in medicine began in high school. As a first-generation Canadian, with immigrant parents and my grandmother living with us, I often found myself in the role of translator for our family, especially in healthcare matters. One particular incident that stands out is when my grandmother had a fainting spell and I had to rush her to the emergency room. Throughout the night of tests and consultations, I was struck by the care and reassurance provided by one doctor in particular. His comforting words and genuine concern made me realize the impact that doctors can have on people’s lives. Witnessing this, along with my experiences translating medical information for my family, inspired my desire to pursue medicine.

Q: Has ethnic diversity played a role in building up your roster of patients?

Absolutely. I’ve witnessed firsthand the challenges that immigrant families, including my own, face in navigating healthcare systems. Language barriers and cultural differences can make accessing healthcare daunting, leading to anxiety and misunderstandings. Being fluent in Mandarin has allowed me to connect with Mandarin-speaking patients, particularly older individuals who often struggle with language barriers. Many patients may feel too embarrassed to admit when they don’t understand medical information, but as a healthcare provider, I can recognize these cues and provide immediate translation and explanation. This ability to bridge language gaps and provide culturally sensitive care is invaluable in building trust and ensuring effective communication with my patients.

Q: Tell me about your practice? 

We operate as a group practice, sharing the same clinic space while managing our individual patient rosters. Collaboratively, we prioritize ensuring our patients have access to quality care. For instance, we offer urgent care clinics in the evenings and on Saturdays to accommodate immediate medical needs. In these clinics, we see each other’s patients as needed, extending our availability beyond regular office hours.

Regarding practice growth, I’ve come to realize a greater demand than initially anticipated. I’ve been able to rapidly expand my patient base, conducting at least twenty meet-and-greet sessions weekly to welcome new patients. These sessions provide an opportunity for individuals to meet me, tour our clinic, and assess our facilities. I aim to offer insight into my approach to healthcare, allowing potential patients to determine if they feel comfortable entrusting me with their medical needs.

It’s integral to us that we uphold principles of non-discrimination in patient care. As family physicians, our commitment extends to serving all individuals, regardless of background. My primary concern is ensuring patients feel at ease with us, and if they are, I gladly welcome them into our practice.

Q: What’s it like being a new physician?

Sometimes, I admit, I do get comments a lot that, oh, you’re so young. As a young doctor, I don’t let it bother me too much. I know that as a new physician, there are things that I have learned that are still fresh off the press, up-to-date evidence, but there’s still a whole lot more that I have to learn. And that comes with time and experience.

Everyone says, in the first five years of practice you have a rapid amount of learning because all of a sudden, we have large rosters of a thousand patients or more with several complex needs. But that’s where it’s really helpful to have our specialist colleagues jump in and give some advice. As a new physician, I really make use of my friends who are specialists or other family physicians to ask questions, such as, “what would you do in this particular scenario?”

What is also very helpful are the modules that we use from FMPE. I’ve actually used these since I was a resident and I love them. I feel that they have a nice condensed format to them where it gives you all the up-to-date information. I especially like the clinical vignettes because that’s how, as physicians, we learn best. Having resources to look back on with the flow charts and diagrams is always helpful as a primary care physician. I was just telling my students this morning, we all have our little resources that we carry. I carry mine digitally on OneNote. I save these flow charts, guidelines, charts from all sorts of resources, from modules, from clinical magazines, so that if I ever need it in a clinic, I can look it up and have a quick peek at what the right choice or what the better choice would be for that patient.

Dr. Si Jia Wang

Ongoing medical learning and medical education is never ending. It is a lifelong learning journey for any physician. I think that’s why I enjoy teaching clinical skills so much because I’m both a teacher, but at the same time, there’s also so many things that I continue to learn. We also share experiences with colleagues when we have our small group learning sessions. In my group most of the physicians have been in practice longer than me, and as a new physician starting out talking about cases, going over themes with the modules, talking about what resources we can potentially use is so helpful.

What initially inspired me was my time in residency. During those years, we would gather to review modules together. Although we lacked the practical experience of some of my current colleagues, our focus was on gaining knowledge and understanding various approaches to patient care. As one of the chief residents, I often took the lead in facilitating these sessions, providing me with valuable perspectives and additional experience.

I also believe that the modules aid in exam preparation. The information is all evidence based, so that’s why it’s helpful particularly for our licensing exam. This requires the ability to examine more higher level thinking questions, more critical thinking approaches to cases rather than just pure didactic knowledge. The module clinical cases pinpoint key questions, such as: What treatment and diagnostics do you want to consider? The way of thinking is along the lines of how you want to think as a practitioner, but also how you want to be approaching any clinical situation, whether it’s an exam or real life.

Q: Where do you see your journey taking you in the first five years of your practice?

Good question. I was thinking about this today actually. When I started my practice, I had a general idea that I’d be seeing quite a diverse group of people, newcomers for one, especially those who speak Mandarin. I wondered if my practice would be more skewed towards the older folks because we have an aging population right now. But it looks like right now I actually have a younger demographic drawn to my practice. I believe I’ll be seeing a lot of younger couples, young families, young individuals who will grow old with me together.

I think the part that’s really unique and makes the job really special is that I see all these families go through their life experiences together, some good, some more challenging. As a family doctor, you’re with them throughout their lives. So, it’s hard to say in five years what it will all look like, but I anticipate lots of new family members coming along, so young babies and young children.

I do plan to also add a lot of women’s health into my practice, so I think that’s going to be something to ramp up in the future. And, as I mentioned, we also have an aging population and their needs are always unique. So, it’s not a one size fits all.

Q: Given the knowledge of those around the table, how often do you come to your small group with questions about your own practice that you may want to possibly integrate?

I personally love it. I know the first module I ever looked at was the one on bariatric surgery when I was a resident. I remember looking at the appendix and just saving that picture, thinking, oh my gosh, all these nutritional things I have to think about to look after the patient. All these complications that may come years down the road, maybe not immediately, that I have to think about. Having all of those resources on hand makes me feel more confident and more ready if certain scenarios come up.

Now, as someone attending small group sessions, my perspective has of course changed. So, for our next small group meeting I chose the topic—abnormal uterine bleeding. I picked that one because I originally thought I knew enough about it and that I could handle anything that came my way. But recently, as I started my practice, there were some clinical cases that occurred where I did all the testing, all the investigations that I’ve been taught, but we just couldn’t find an answer for why someone’s menstrual bleeding was so irregular. So I was feeling kind of stumped. It’s hard to just send a referral out immediately without having an idea of what I’m referring for yet. So I picked that topic on purpose to pick the brains of my more experienced colleagues. This type of input and feedback is invaluable to me, especially given our small group sessions are open and transparent, in a judgment free environment.

I also appreciate the sessions because it is a chance for us to get together, not just for medical knowledge, but even just socially, to support each other. I think it’s nice to have a group of family physicians who understand what each other’s going through, to just chat and be like, it’s okay. I’ve been in your shoes. Here’s what happened. This is so reassuring and helps me grow and develop on multiple levels as a family physician.