Friday, 6 January 2017

Welcoming Strangers: 2016 National Conference

As we continue in our planning for our 2017 National Conference in Toronto, Ontario, from May 4-7, 2017, we felt called to reflect upon last year's Conference. In the months since the 2016 Conference occurred, we felt called to look back upon the previous Conference. To register for the 2017 National Conference, visit our website.

From May 26th,-29th, 2016, Saskatoon welcomed over 140 delegates for our 2016 National Conference. Our time together was a joyful opportunity to join in fellowship, learn from our speakers and one another, and to engage with the very timely issue of welcoming the stranger. 

Even before the Syrian refugee crisis was splashed across news media, our Saskatoon Local Planning Committee, inspired by the Holy Spirit, invited Dr. David Shenk to come and speak to us from his vast experience of interacting with people of other faith traditions, particularly Muslims. His witness was a powerful one, as he shared with us how he had managed to maintain the important balance between respect for other faiths and witness of our Christian faith. His plenary presentations carried us through the importance of hospitality, welcome, mutual understanding and witness. 

Our Local Planning Committee, led by Distinguished Christian Service Award recipient Dr. Jim Fenton (and perhaps the most avid Roughriders fan to ever walk the earth!), prepared an excellent and insightful selection of workshops. 

Several of the workshops were presented by teams, such as a workshop led by three couples all in different stages of life (newlywed, married with young children, and retired) that touched on ideas for how to best maintain the balance between work and home life and another workshop led by a grad doctor, a student and newly graduated doctor that discusses how to deal with the constant critique students, residents and grad doctors face, among many other brilliantly planned and presented workshops. Besides the inspiration from our speakers, our days were blessed by the talents of our members who led our worship team. Thanks to Margaret and Robin Cottle for their leadership in this important ministry.

 Attendees also heard an update from Executive Director Larry Worthen regarding the latest news on Conscience Protection. This was followed by a lively discussion from those present. Our membership is full of passionate, faithful Christians who want to do the best for their patients.

 One theme that kept arising over the course of the Conference was that we were called for this moment.  As our incoming President Dr. Donato Gugliotta reminded us in the devotion before our AGM, we have been put in this place at this time for a reason. He shared with us the words of Mordecai to the young Queen Esther, when she learned the Hebrews were to be annihilated in the Kingdom: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14) As King Xerxes’ Queen, Esther had the unique opportunity to speak out on behalf of her people. So we too have been called to this time and place not to watch as our brothers and sisters in Christ are pushed out of practice or disciplined and vulnerable patients are put at risk, but to speak up on their behalf and our own.  So like Esther, let us fast and prepare ourselves, then speak up and be a voice to witness to the dignity of the human person, regardless of age or ability.

Our thanks to Dr. Shenk and all our workshop speakers for their insightful presentations. Your talents are truly noted and appreciated. Special thanks to the Saskatoon Local Planning Committee for their diligent and tireless service. You demonstrated what it looks like to welcome the stranger and to be open to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Western Student Retreat

Our Western and Eastern Student retreats are happening this month. With that in mind, we thought we'd highlight the reflections students shared from last year's retreat. To register for the Western Student Retreat email Shannon Friesen for more information.

Jon Chan, 3rd Year Dental Student, UBC

As a third year dental student at UBC, I can attest to the ways in which our secular institutions attempt to strip away our very spiritual foundations and drain the power of our faith, an insidious process that have consigned too many to a sense of spiritual defeat.  This is why this weekend of renewal was so incredibly necessary. There was something special as over a hundred medical and dental students gathered to worship and glorify our Father. As the beautiful cacophony of our voices and prayers reverberated across the room, the fears and struggles of our hearts were temporarily abandoned, overcome by an intimate sense of rest found in the presence of the Father.

One of my favorite moments was the chance to reconnect and spend time in fellowship with medical students from other schools across the country. Stress and studying gave way to deep conversations, hours of frivolous board games and outdoor activities. However, after the festivities died down, board games were abandoned for profound, meaningful heart-to-heart interactions. After hearing the trials and victories of various CMDS student chapters across the nation, we entered into times of prayer and encouragement. I have no doubt that God was present and speaking in our conversations. As we navigate the murky waters of medical school that teem with ethical issues such as euthanasia and abortion, it is of the utmost importance that we stand firm and stand together in solidarity. In this journey, it is encouraging to know that CMDS Canada is firmly invested in uniting students, establishing a network of support that spans the country.

The other highlight of my weekend was the time spent in worship and learning, where we were joined by Dr. Jo-Ann Badley from Ambrose University. As someone who had the chance to lead worship, the most authentic part of the experience came not from the music played but from witnessing the passion of the congregation as they sang their hearts out to our perfect Lord and Saviour. Through it all, I was once again reminded of the extravagance and depth of our good, good Father’s love that transcends and surpasses all human fear and understanding. There was something refreshing in learning from Dr. Badley’s wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures. It was a much needed change from the hours spent haphazardly pouring over scholarly articles and textbooks. I realized that in order for my faith to flourish, I had to invest in moments like this, where my spiritual learning mirrored the depth of my medical education. This was truly a time for the rejuvenating and equipping of my soul.

My reflections could mention the time I spent frolicking in the snow, swallowed up by the beauty of God’s creation, or the sharing by a panel of doctors with a vast wealth of practical experience in integrating the love of Christ into patient care. However for brevity’s sake, I will abstain. In the end, the Western Student Retreat was an amazing time of fellowship, learning, worship and relaxing. As I shoulder the weight of my professional education, this was the perfect time to lighten the load, to walk with others on the same journey and to share in their triumphs and victories. In a vocational field that so often seeks to separate and subjugate, it is so relieving to experience the love of this community and to know that we do not tread this twisted yet beautiful narrow path alone.

Elise Van Brummelen, 3rd Year Medical Student, UBC

My first two years of medical school have been a challenging a journey, but the beautiful thing about journeys is that the multitude of perspectives and events you encounter along the way each leave their mark on you. For me, the CMDS Canada Western Student Retreat was one of those events that will shape the way I approach medicine and life in the future, and I realized there just how much effort CMDS Canada is putting into coming alongside and supporting students as God forges us on our paths. That support is a multi-faceted gift, and everything I experienced at the WSR was part of it.
For instance, attending the WSR gave me the chance to hear from doctors, dentists, speakers, and students who offered me new viewpoints, encouragement, and reminders of what is important in both faith and practice. During the panel discussion, I gleaned pearls from a number of professionals whose stories gave concrete examples of how they bring Jesus' love into their work. In addition, I needed Dr. Badley's timely reminders of the importance of prayer, scripture, baptism and communion, and how they relate to my daily life. Larry Worthen's update on physician-assisted suicide in Canada reminded me how diligently CMDS Canada is working to create a future where physicians of all moral convictions can practice freely. Ultimately, I was left with the sense that I am not alone in my journey as a medical student of faith - I stand in solidarity with other students and on the shoulders of spiritual giants who are preparing the way for us.

Unity was another theme that struck me at the retreat. Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Protestants – Christ-followers of many denominations – were able to stand together worshipping our God. One of the most powerful things I experienced was looking out on the crowd of future physicians and dentists during worship, seeing young people who will hold prominent positions and powerful influence in society, and seeing at the same time a community of hearts desperate for God and for his love to be applied practically in the world. We stood united despite our differences; in fact, our unity was made all the more beautiful because of our unique perspectives, complex systems of belief, different stages of learning, and individual destinies as practitioners and as people. Seeing so many different hearts alive in the love of God and realizing that I stand together with them brought me to a place of deep gratitude.

Over my weekend in Calgary, I experienced the WSR as CMDS Canada expressing Christ's disciple-making love, drawing me closer to him and showing me that I am not alone in my quest to share his love with others through medicine. Whether I was hearing from a speaker, laughing with other students, or strumming my guitar on the worship team, the way our desire to know and praise God brought us together impacted me. We forged connections with one another that will enable us, through our differences and the things we share, to support one another and raise each other up. It was a huge gift, and its effects will continue to influence me as I grow spiritually and clinically.

To CMDS, David Loewen, Larry Worthen, and everyone else who played a part in making the WSR happen - I can't thank you enough!­­­­­­

Eastern Student Retreat

Our Eastern and Western Student Retreats are happening this month. With that in mind, we thought we'd share some of our student reflections from last year's retreats. To learn more about the retreat and to register, visit our website or contact Shannon Friesen.

Xinyuan Hong (Camilla) – 2nd year medical student at McGill University
After a car ride of popcorn chicken, cookies, and memorizing verses from James 5 and the side effects of spironolactone, our McGill delegation finally found itself at the end of our 3-hour drive to Camp IAWAH. God has been abundant in His blessings to our CMDS Canada student chapter. Even within the first couple of months, He has built and guided a weekly prayer group, a supportive community for our walk with Christ. Coming to the retreat, I was most excited to get to know the larger CMDS Canada family. In the couple of hours left of the day, it was already clear that God was present and working in our interactions and conversations. From getting to know the girls while brushing our teeth, to midnight conversations with doctors and dentists, these relationships will surely last throughout our studies and into our practice.
Even though the retreat did not specifically address topics of calling or doing God’s work, when I was coming back from the retreat, I felt a great deal of renewed inspiration. The past month in school had been a bit of a lull because I was not particularly excited over nephrology. Curiously, after the retreat I felt much more motivated in the block and paid attention to giving glory to God in my work. This must have come from being in the midst of God-fearing, God-loving students and physicians, and I thank God for working through community to lead us to be Christ-centered in our studies.
While the retreat was a break from renal physiology, we had an equally edifying morning session discussing the intersection of secular philosophy and Christian thought. On a spectrum of values including peace, justice, reciprocity, service, and love, it appears that the conclusions that a multitude of great thinkers over centuries such as Plato and Pyrrho had come to are strikingly similar to Christian teachings. When I first came to faith three years prior, I experienced a lot of spiritual growth through my church and fellowships. In contrast, the communities I had within my campus and my family remained exceedingly secular. At times, it seems that the two worlds did not go together. While I had assumed science to be largely secular, I later learned that the majority of the founders of modern science, including Boyle and Newton, functioned on a Christian base -- they operated on a belief that God is creator and lawgiver who implanted laws in creation than man can discover. Similarly, it was enlightening to learn over the weekend that even “secular” philosophy points towards God. It was a reminder that our rational minds too are God’s creation and a reminder that faith transcends every area of life.

The weekend was not short of rest and enjoying each other’s company. We went on nature walks, we put together a worship session in just hours, we had deep conversations, we fell on the ice together playing Broomball, we taught each other new card games, and we relished in tubing under the stars. While I wished the retreat would last forever, our prayer time for our local CMDS Canada student chapters on the final day reminded us that God has placed us where we are for His Kingdom, and that we are called to be a light to our campuses. This gave me more courage to intentionally reach out to classmates. Thankfully, God has provided brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage each other in this. The value of our CMDS Canada community was once again apparent, when one of the residents shared how CMDS Canada members across the country look out for each other during residency match interviews. This is a community that I want to see and help grow. In giving clarity and direction in my work and having rest in Christ and, the retreat was definitely needed. Already, I can't wait for the next one. 

This year's retreat will be held from January 27-29, 2017. For more information visit our website