Changing perspectives

 

Calgary physician Dr. Vera Krejcik’s personal experience drives her efforts to connect physicians with disabilities.

I understand the emotions people experience when they go through a life-altering experience, and I think I’ll be able to use that to help patients.

Volunteer work has always been part of Dr. Vera Krejcik’s life.

As a medical student at the University of Calgary, she helped start the Calgary Drop-In Centre Student Run Clinic. As she moved into her residency training, she envisioned a future that would incorporate volunteer work into a busy internal medicine practice. Then fate intervened.

After a large arteriovenous malformation (i.e., an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, bypassing the capillary system) was found during a routine examination, Dr. Krjckik decided to undergo an elective neurosurgical resection before beginning her residency.

A difficult surgery and late post-operative stroke left her hemiparetic (with one side of her body weaker than the other). “Suddenly, everything changed.”

She found herself facing a long recovery, a new disability and a complete change in her career and her life.

In the midst of all this, she longed to do something constructive. “Not being able to volunteer was one of my biggest frustrations,” she recalls.

When she discovered the website for the Canadian Association of Physicians with Disabilities (CAPD), she immediately knew she had found a “way to help others while I recovered.”

After initially agreeing to revamp their website, she quickly became the organization’s president.

“I realized how isolated physicians with disabilities were and was surprised at how reticent many doctors with disabilities are to ask for help…I really wanted to find a way to change that.” She considers her work with CAPD to be an important part of her healing.

Since her health crisis and her involvement with CAPD, Dr. Krejcik has been inspired to make changes in her own life, including a switch to a specialization in psychiatry.

“I understand the emotions people experience when they go through a life-altering experience, and I think I’ll be able to use that to help patients.”

She’s also keenly aware of the importance of persevering when facing seemingly insurmountable challenges.

“I’ve learned there’s always something you can do. I may not be able to run a marathon but I can certainly help someone else.”

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The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.