Resident Physician in Emergency Medicine
University of Ottawa—Ottawa Hospital

francis bakewell

After studying for a Bachelor of Humanities with a Minor in Biology, I was accepted to the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University, and am now in the midst of my residency in Emergency Medicine at the Ottawa Hospital. 

I can’t imagine anything more personally fulfilling. My job is physically engaging, allowing me to get my hands dirty on a regular basis, and to come home at the end of the day with the tangible satisfaction of having applied a good cast, or successfully intubated a patient in respiratory distress. It is intellectually challenging, requiring me to grasp an enormous body of knowledge that is in constant flux. Most importantly, however, it exposes me to the the full range of human experience that flows through our doors on every shift. It is for this that studying at the College of the Humanities has proven invaluable.

On any given day in the Emergency Department we are confronted with agony and joy, with untimely loss and lucky escapes. We see violence, rape, and suicide, but also self-sacrifice and love. We see people consumed by their demons, the derelict, and the lonely. But we also see triumph, relief, and the sometimes boundless capacity for compassion between strangers.

For those times when it all becomes too overwhelming, studying the Humanities puts the catharsis of The Consolation of PhilosophyPurgatorio, or Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder within easy reach. But more importantly it provides a deep understanding of human suffering and pain, a recognition of what happiness we might be capable of, and a drive to help others achieve it. The study of the great works of civilization forces the realization that each person that comes through our door is not just a patient with a complaint, but someone with the spark of reason and creativity that defines us as a species, someone with a life as meaningful as our own, and someone seeking help. The study of the Humanities is the broadest possible exercise in empathy.

No matter what you end up doing as a career, a Bachelor of Humanities will serve as an excellent preparation. You will discover the greatest books ever written, and find yourself discussing them not only in small tutorials, but often with your fellow Collegiates outside the classroom as well. You will have unparalleled access to your professors as an undergraduate, discussing philosophy, religion, political science, and literature with experts in their fields, in class and often over pints. Over four years you will form friendships that will last a lifetime, gain the foundation needed to study or work in almost any field you please, and, vitally, become an educated and engaged citizen of the world. I would strongly urge anyone to consider applying.

Francis Bakewell, M.D., is completing his residency in Emergency Medicine at the Ottawa Hospital.

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