Atara Messinger: What inspired you to go into medicine?
Dr. Trevor Young: A big inspiration for going into medicine was my father, who was a family doctor. Growing up and hearing about his experiences was a large part of my inspiration to go into medicine. The experiences my father talked about and the things that really got him motivated were really exciting. I remember him sharing experiences from his practice of getting to know families and the struggles they went through. I thought the way he connected with people was inspiring. Also, looking at the whole field of medicine, the depth and breadth of the knowledge is intriguing in so many ways. The thought of learning the physiology of every part of the body…and being able to put it all together, that was really remarkable to me.
Why did you decide to specialize in psychiatry?
As an undergraduate student, I always liked biochemistry and psychology. Psychiatry was a natural fit, bringing those two worlds together – both behaviour and complex molecular pathways. When I started medical school, I was pretty convinced I would go into psychiatry; it was either that or internal medicine. I’ve always liked detail and the problem-solving part of medicine. I was too clumsy for a procedural specialty, so I guess the stars were aligned.
What advice do you have for medical students vis-à-vis selecting a suitable residency?
You can’t tell someone what they’re interested in. You have to find it yourself – you have to find a passion. Be open to a rich experience and it will come to you. If you spend too much time trying to figure it out, you might miss the chance. The most important thing is to remain open to opportunities. Whether it’s a patient experience, a lecture or an article you read that sparks a sense of interest in you, something will eventually connect and in that moment you will have your answer.
What are some of your interests outside of medicine?
My parents were big opera buffs growing up, so I’m a big opera fan. For a psychiatrist opera is great; it’s all about passion and betrayal and broken hearts. I’m a big film buff as well; I like to see films from all over the world. I also enjoy short fiction. Some of the best I’ve read recently is Alice Monroe’s short stories – these little vignettes that pack so much about characters and personalities and people’s triumphs and challenges with life. I find those really refreshing and inspiring.
There has been a lot of talk about burnout in medicine. How do you stay enthusiastic about your career?
Balance and perspective are very important. Having a good social network, whether family or a partner or friends, is way more important than you may think. A lot of medicine involves sitting in a chair and using your head. I like to cycle and run, to get the blood flowing in the brain and body – that helps reduce stress a lot. Being able to see the fruits of your efforts as a physician is also really helpful. As a student it is sometimes hard, because you only get a little piece of the whole story. I am a big fan of longitudinal experiences in medical school, so that you can see a patient develop over a period of time. Being refreshed, well-rested and focused is really important. Being as present as possible in all of your experiences – with patients, in the lab, and outside of medicine – is important in helping find balance.
What do you think is the importance of the arts and humanities in medicine?
The technical side of medicine is really important, but narratives and communication skills are equally valuable. Communicating with patients, telling the story of their diagnosis and putting it into context so they can connect to it – this is a broader, invaluable skill. Like the stories we might find written by Alice Munro, a clear and thoughtful consultation or patient history can tell us so much about a person. There is something profound when you see that, and this is something that can be learned from the arts and humanities.