McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

New doctor puts compassion and empathy into practice

Published: May 21, 2009
Patricia Farrugia
Dr. Patricia Farrugia, valedictorian of the 2009 class of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine

Her personal experience with a hereditary bone condition started Patricia Farrugia on her journey to become a doctor.

Now, the new physician and soon-to-be orthopedic surgery resident will share her story this week as she bids farewell to medical school and graduates the valedictorian of the 2009 class of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

A total of 145 new doctors will graduate at the Faculty of Health Sciences spring convocation at Hamilton Place on Friday, May 22. Among that group are nine aboriginal doctors, including Farrugia. Prior to convocation, the students will attend the morning Oath Ceremony, where they will be welcomed by a native drumming circle. An elder from Six Nations will also be present.

As president of her class, Farrugia has played a key role in the recruitment of aboriginal students to the medical program. She’s also demonstrated strong leadership by working to identify the challenges and needs of her classmates, in particular those faced by First Nations students.

"There’s a nice balance that exists between remembering our past and trying to find our future," said the Hamilton resident and member of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. "We want to be able to adapt, preserve our culture and educate people so aboriginal populations and communities get the appropriate help that they need. But, at the same time, we’re sensitive to the struggles that they’ve undergone."

As a child, Farrugia endured more than a dozen corrective surgeries on her joints — an experience that sparked her interest in health care. Before entering medical school in 2006, she worked as a public health nurse. But realized she had much to bring to medicine in terms of her desire to make compassion and empathy the cornerstone of her practice.

"I had a lot of experiences as a child with orthopedics," said the mother of twin girls. "I required a lot of surgeries myself. I did my rotation and I fell in love with it."

In 2008, Farrugia completed a month-long rotation in orthopedic surgery at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Los Angeles. She begins a five-year residency in the field on July 1 at McMaster University.

Farrugia credits her family with helping her to succeed in medical school by offering unconditional support and encouragement.

"I couldn’t do it without them," said the 33-year-old. "They’re the key to everything I do."

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