The McGill Division of Gastroenterology is involved on a daily basis in teaching, patient care and research. Below are some testimonials of students and patients reflecting on their experience in the Division.

This experience shadowing a doctor has given me some exposure to the daily life of a medical specialist. Although the view into the medical profession as a whole is still limited to a brief encounter, I was able to appreciate new facets of the working realities of medicine. Observing how the doctor deals with different patients, one sees how the diversity of patients and their specific circumstances plays a role in determining the kind of care provided. Certain medical procedures repeated several times over the day still finds new considerations that the doctor must address for each individual. Often the specialist does not work alone but in a team with other healthcare professionals and trainees which enhance the quality of healthcare that the patients receive.


I had the privilege of shadowing in Gastroenterology today and found the experience very interesting! From 8am to 5pm the doctor I observed was completing colonoscopies and upper GI endoscopies for his patients. These patients ranged in age and though the procedure was 'standard' I came to realize that no matter how 'repetitive' the procedures may seem, they are all different. Each patient has different comfort zones and problems and the doctor was friendly and interactive with each patient. He tried his best not to cause the patients as little pain as possible, however, a hard lesson I saw before me was that at times as a doctor you have to make the choice of whether to proceed with the procedure even if it is causing the patient pain because the outcome of the results would be more beneficial in the long run to the patient. Furthermore, though the procedures were being done by the doctor, I saw that the full procedure is a group effort consisting of the doctor, nurse and patient. I don’t think any amount of words I use can explain how grateful I am for this opportunity. The doctor, staff and patients were very understanding and open to my questions. The knowledge I gained in my core science courses was applied and with the help of the staff I was shown the vocal chords, pyloric sphincter, polyps and the entire digestive tract from both ends! After having observed this field, though I never imagined myself wanting to go into gastroenterology, but the way the doctor and staff interacted with the patients and were able to see direct results (i.e. formation of polyps and if so there removal) which helped the patients really helped broaden my horizon. To the staff at MUHC and MedSpecs, thank you very much for this opportunity!


When I told MedSpecs that I wanted to shadow Dr. Barkun of MGH’s GI department, I expected to see a few patients, get a feel for what it was like to work in a hospital, and maybe even watch an endoscopy or two. I ended up watching 8 live colonoscopies and gastroscopies (each complemented with an extremely informative running commentary by Dr. Barkun himself), and watching in awe as information I had learnt from lectures and neat, straightforward diagrams was translated into living tissue. However, what struck me most of all was witnessing firsthand the great importance of the relationships between the doctors, nurses, and patients. It may sound clichéd, but I learnt just how important it was for the doctor to establish a friendly bond with the patient, especially in procedures like endoscopies, where there was often psychological and sometimes physical discomfort. Some patients were completely fine and talkative, while others were extremely nervous. I soon learnt that it was imperative for the doctor to quickly assess the patient’s personality in order to interact with them as comfortingly as possible. Dr. Barkun seemed to have a gift in this, and he extended his kindness to the rest of his staff, claiming that it was his policy to try and maintain a pleasant work environment. And what an environment it was. Everyone was extremely friendly and ready to do their best, willing to go out of their way to ensure that a patient was comfortable. The atmosphere was light, and it helped keep the patients calmer to an incredible degree, reducing what could have been a painful and humiliating procedure into only a slightly uncomfortable one. All in all, the observership was an incredible experience, one where I learnt a wide variety of information, from email etiquette to the physics behind the cauterization of a polyp, and I encourage anyone who is interested in entering the field of medicine to seriously consider an observership with MedSpecs.