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SEME Alumni - Toronto - Dr. Zahra Jaffer (8 min)


Michelle Yee: Alright thanks, guys, for joining us. So for our next blog we have Zahra Jaffer, why don't we start off by just telling us about yourself?


Zahra Jaffer: I am a family doctor, and I am from Toronto. I trained in Toronto. Never thought I would leave the city, loved city life. And then I found myself up in Moose Factory for an elective and fell in love and just decided that I was gonna do rural medicine. And so now I'm in Kenora. I live here with my partner, my 2 kids, and I do a mix of Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, First nations medicine, and hospitalist. And yeah, we love it. We live on the lake, so we wake up to a pretty cool view every day, and it's a far cry from city life. But in a very positive way.


Michelle Yee: Yeah, Kenora is honestly, one of the most beautiful places you can see in Ontario. Tell us. When did you do SEME? And what made you interested in it?


Zahra Jaffer: So when I was working up in Moose Factory, we had a lot of interesting situations and cases. But we just didn't have volume and when we planned or moved to Kenora, I realized that I just really was going to need a bit more kind of hands-on experience and volume to feel comfortable in a bigger center, which Kenora is. We're on a highway. We have lots of summer boating and traffic accidents. So I just knew that I wanted to feel more comfortable with that. So I talked to Yas (previous Program Director) one evening, and kind of had a conversation with her about it, and just thought the program would be a really good fit. So I applied, and I was there in 2019 in the spring session and it was great. I did. You know, like the mix of trauma, anesthesia, emerge, I really felt like I got that volume in and was able to feel more comfortable.


Michelle Yee: Yeah, totally agree. Kenora, although it's in Northern Ontario, a bit more remote, you certainly see lots of acuity. And I think oftentimes you see that in rural populations, the access to care is just not as wide and so people present later in their disease. But in terms of what gets transferred in from some of the smaller centers into Kenora. Now can you tell us more about SEME, what your experience was like, highlights, and stuff that you found really helpful for you?


Zahra Jaffer: I think one of the things I loved about SEME is being an adult learner where: you know what you know and you know what you don't know. So you come in with the set of objectives and things that you wanna learn. So for me, one of the big things was when I was in Moose Factory, I was in one of the kind of remote first nations communities where it's just you and a couple of nurses, and we had a situation where I had to put in a chest tube, and I had not done one of these since even like med school. And because I did residency in Toronto, and as a family med resident, you're at the bottom of the pile of who gets to learn what. And so I did hardly anything. And so suddenly I'm faced with doing this chest tube, not feeling comfortable and not really having a lot of time to look stuff up and kind of get guidance, and so we did it, and we got it in. But I just felt extremely uncomfortable and very much out of my comfort zone. And so coming into SEME, with that as one of my objectives, and being able to talk to the preceptors and tell them what I wanted to learn and then, being able to do that. For example, my trauma rotation and walking out feeling like, okay, like I can do a chest tube now, no problem. And then in Kenora, having a few and actually getting to teach one of my residents here and and talk them through doing one themselves. So that was pretty cool to kind of see that whole turnaround from feeling very uncomfortable to being able to teach a skill. So that was a highlight for me. And I think I just really appreciated that everybody who came to teach us was very invested in us, like they knew that we might be calling them on the phone one day to transfer a patient, and they wanted us to be good at what we were doing. And so the teaching was very focused. It was very interactive. It was really geared to what we wanted to know, and you know, honestly like it was a thousand times better than residency. I found I gained much more knowledge and I really appreciated the preceptors who were very receptive to focusing on the skills I wanted to learn.


Michelle Yee: Yeah, that's great to hear. Yeah, we often kind of talk about SEME as almost like a crash course in acute resuscitation care. I mean, a lot of this has to do with the fact that 50% of the Emergency Departments (in Canada) are staffed by people who've only done 2 years of family, without the additional plus one without an FR or anything like that. And we're in these situations where acute things come in and you just have to know how to be able to do it. But oftentimes, we get this feedback from people that having the 3 months to focus on those procedural skills and having those academic days where they integrate SIM, they're able to bring it back so much more.


I know you mentioned you did this in 2019, so it's been a few years. Tell me about how doing SEME has impacted your career and what you took away from it after that.


Zahra Jaffer: A hundred percent, it's made me more confident. I don't kind of feel that nauseated terror when I walk into an emerg shift that I used to feel when I first started. You know, I think we all feel a little bit of that sometimes deep inside. But I think I have much more confidence. I feel like I can rely on skills. I think that even the things that I maybe don't see as often like, for example, I'm not necessarily doing all the time, but I think the practice that we got to do in SEME with the hands on models, plus one of my preceptors at Credit Valley really helping me get a few of those under my belt. I think it's really helped me realize this is something I want to do for a long time, like I want to continue rural medicine. I want to do emergency medicine. And SEME really gave me kind of the confidence and the ability to focus on that.


Michelle Yee: Awesome. One thing that we've launched in these last couple of years is our curriculum platform now includes all the resources we use for our SEME cohort! And so our fellows are able to access those things back and have those things like the one page summaries and everything. A one-stop shop that is able to offer them resources. In which, to any one else who's listening, we also have a whole bunch (of free continuing medical education resources) on our website, whether it's things like modules or videos, for you guys as well.


Thank you so much for taking the time. Any final thoughts or anything else you want to share with us?


Zahra Jaffer: I think the other thing that I wanted to mention was, it's really nice having those 3 months with a group of peers who are in the same kind of boat as you, who are trying to learn the same things, who want to practice in the same situations. We had a little Whatsapp group that we started and we'd still actually talk in it every now and then, and we still share cases. We still ask for thoughts when we're faced with something difficult. So it's kinda like our own little ongoing SEME group that we can discuss things, so I really appreciated that, and some of the friendships that we made. It's definitely one of the best kinds of learning experiences I've had in my career so far, and I think it's really added a lot to my repertoire.


Michelle Yee: Thanks so much for sharing. It's been 11 years since the SEME program has been started, and we're very proud to say we've had over 198 physicians who've completed the program, so the community of SEME-grads has continued to grow larger, but it's awesome to hear that you've kept in touch with everybody!


Zahra Jaffer: Yeah, thank you so much. Thank you so much again, for taking the time.


Michelle Yee: Thank you! Take care.


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