Osler’s real life stories: Why I chose medicine

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Dr. Priya Chopra, Site Chief of General Surgery shares her story

This month, we asked Osler surgeon, Dr. Priya Chopra, why she became a doctor, what inspired her to pursue medical school and why she has chosen to give back to her hospital through the Osler Foundation’s ‘You Have the Power’ campaign. Read her story and discover what continues to motivate her as a physician today.

Dr. Priya Chopra was appointed William Osler Health System’s (Osler) Brampton Site Chief, General Surgery for a three-year term, which ended June 2016. She leads a group of 10 general surgeons after joining Osler in 2001. She is passionate about cancer care and leads the Breast Tumour Site Group at Osler.

“I became a doctor because I was fascinated by science and medicine and enjoy helping others. I specialized in surgery because it is a vital component of care and impacts the lives of many people,” said Dr. Chopra. “I am inspired daily by patients and their families. It is rewarding to see them heal and get better. Giving patients hope, making them smile, and watching them thrive is all the motivation I need to continue my work from day to day.”
Dr. Chopra has a Bachelor in Science from the University of Toronto, a medical degree from Western University, and holds a Masters Certificate in Physician Leadership from the Schulich School of Business. She completed residency and fellowship at the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal. She speaks Hindi, Punjabi, and French in addition to English and embraces her South Asian heritage.

“When you walk through halls of Osler’s hospitals, you will see the faces that represent the diversity and ethnic background of our community, from patients and their families to the staff, physicians and volunteers. My South Asian heritage brings me a unique level of interaction through language and cultural connectedness with my patients,” added Dr. Chopra. “At a time when many patients are challenged with illness, I feel this asset can make a difference between treating the whole person versus simply the illness. The patients feel respected and heard. As a surgeon treating cancer daily, this connectedness bridges the psychosocial and biomedical aspects of the cancer journey. I believe this is a transferable skill and improves interactions with patients, other physicians and hospital staff regardless of race, colour, sexual orientation, gender, or disability of any kind.”

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Dr. Chopra believes it is important to give back to her local community. She is a regular donor to Osler’s Foundation and has supported both the Orlando Matching Challenge Campaign and Brampton Civic General Surgeons Group Pledge.

“The opportunity to continuously improve patient care through innovation has inspired both myself and my colleagues to make a difference by donating. We all work here and want to help,” she said. “We deliver excellent quality care through more than 3,500 general surgery procedures a year. By donating, we can help to build on this excellence and set a good example.”
Dr. Chopra, together with the other 10 general surgeons at Brampton Civic Hospital came together to respond to the $15M Matching Challenge with a generous group pledge.

“Our enhanced recovery after bowel surgery program is helping patients to recover faster, go home sooner and experience improved outcomes. We are also improving access to surgery to diagnose and treat breast cancer, which will help to reduce the anxiety associated with waiting for surgery. We also have a skilled team of surgeons exclusively dedicated to treat acutely ill emergency patients who need surgery and care right away,” said Dr. Chopra. “Our gift will help to fund equipment that allows us to continuously innovate and improve access to surgery that saves lives and provides improved quality of life.”
Dr. Chopra is also proud to support ‘You Have the Power’ – the most ambitious campaign Osler Foundation has undertaken. Contributions from the community and the efforts of Osler Foundation are vital to the success of the project which will fund equipment for the new Peel Memorial, opening in early 2017. This new state-of-the-art hospital will provide specialized care through extensive outpatient clinics, a new urgent care centre, and day surgery program. “I am proud to give and work where patient-inspired care is a priority and to support the ‘You Have the Power’ campaign. The new Peel Memorial’s integrated approach to health is the way of the future. It will provide a unique health and wellness approach to care, one where patients can get the information they need to prevent or manage their chronic disease with fewer hospital visits,” she added.

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Dr. Chopra believes the level of sophistication and the new challenges in health care today require individuals who are seeking careers in medicine to have a robust skill set. She credits her Masters Certificate in Physician Leadership for expanding her career path in hospital leadership once she took on the role of Site Chief of General Surgery at Brampton Civic Hospital. “The Masters Certificate in Physician Leadership program addressed the unique issues facing health care professionals and it provided me with an opportunity to examine innovative processes that can be applied to health care,” she said. Dr. Chopra applied the learning from this program to help drive the framework for a multidisciplinary clinic for breast cancer patients, which has facilitated more streamlined care and helped reduce wait times for diagnostics and treatment.

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What is Dr. Chopra’s advice for those considering a medical career?

“It is important to remember that the role of a doctor is a calling and not just a job. We build and form relationships, and patients put their trust in us. We share stories and make decisions together. It is woven into all aspects of our life; it is not something that you can put away at 5pm or when you go home. Remembering to save some emotional energy for myself and my family is key to a work-life balance. In order to take care of our patients, we as physicians need to take care of ourselves,” she said.

If you’re thinking about a career in medicine, Dr. Chopra highly recommends trying out some medical experiences in high school before committing to a pre-med track. “Doing a summer program, or community service project in high school can help you decide if medicine is the right path for you. Volunteering in a clinic or hospital or ‘shadowing’ a doctor provides the opportunity to spend time in a setting where you can observe what physicians do on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “Volunteers can learn from the various health care workers with whom they come into contact by asking questions and seeing how they function as part of a team.”

As Dr. Chopra reflects on her career and experiences, she believes she has made the right choice. “I am happy with my decision as there is no better feeling than taking away someone’s pain, treating a disease or performing a curative operation for cancer. I have met wonderful patients who have taught me that no matter the hand dealt to you, you will always win with a positive attitude and humour.” – CINEWS

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