McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Waterloo McMaster MD graduate already a leader in his field

Published: May 27, 2016
Christopher Charles
Christopher Charles is one of 202 new physicians graduating from the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine during McMaster University's 2016 convocation for the Faculty of Health Sciences. Photo courtesy of Brooke Wedlock.

Christopher Charles hadn't given much thought to a career in medicine while working on his PhD in South-East Asia.

As a public health and nutrition consultant, he was working on developing his invention of the Lucky Iron Fish, a tool put in the cooking pot which helps combat iron deficiency anemia in people of rural Cambodia.

But while collecting data in the field he was often pulled aside to examine a sick infant, talk with a grandmother who had been experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, or assess a village elder. Many people had started to rely on him for medical help and he knew that if he was to be an effective health researcher, he also needed some more practical and technical skills in order to truly feel that he was doing all that he could to help people.

Charles took a risk and returned to school for medicine, a decision he has zero regrets in making.

On Friday, May 27, the student at the Waterloo Regional Campus was one of 202 new physicians graduating from the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine during McMaster University's 2016 convocation for the Faculty of Health Sciences. A total of 514 students from medicine, midwifery, Bachelor of Health Sciences and several specialty diplomas and graduate degrees, crossws the Hamilton Place stage at the ceremony.

The switch to medicine has been rewarding for Charles beyond his medical training. He has been vice-president of global health for the Canadian Federation of Medical Students throughout his medical training.

He also continued work on his Lucky Iron Fish project. While completing his medical degree, Charles completed the proof of concept with consultation from local elders, demonstrated its effectiveness, assembled a team to commercialize the product for mass distribution while ensuring low and no cost availability to the people of Cambodia, and distributed thousands of units.

For these initiatives Charles received the Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS) undergraduate Sandra Banner Student Award for Leadership last month.

On receiving the award, Charles says he is "reminded that the pursuit of social justice and health equity are important areas of work that are increasingly being recognized by the medical community."

The funds from the award will be used for a project that will share interviews and stories collected by current medical learners with physicians whose practice brings evidence-based, socially accountable ideas to life.

He credits the faculty at the Waterloo Regional Campus (WRC) for shaping his career.

"I absolutely would not have chosen anesthesia if it weren't for the incredible faculty at WRC," Charles said. "These teachers made me an incredibly competent medical student. Everywhere I go, I rave about the quality of teaching at WRC — that all faculty members seem to go above and beyond, that only those who are truly engaged in working with learners take part."

Charles begins his residency in anesthesiology at the University of Toronto on July 1.

"I look forward, with just a bit of terror, at writing my own orders for the first time. I look forward to having the tough but necessary conversations about end of life with sick patients. I look forward to working as part of a huge team of people from different backgrounds and professions all with the common pursuit of better patient care.

"And, perhaps most of all, I look forward to being a part of the changes in medicine that will take place over the next 30 years. I cannot wait to put my skills and knowledge to work to improve life and save lives."

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