Conflicts of Interest: None.
For those professors who include this disclosure within their slides, I always wonder about what defines a conflict of interest, and if these interests can also present outside of industry funding. Our lecturers are pioneers and experts in their field. They all come from unique background and career paths that have lead them to the front of our lecture hall. But – are the majority of them markedly free of bias?
This thought came to mind after receiving a lecture by a professor who only presented his own research on obesity. He emphasized the benefits of weight loss and activity independent of weight loss on biomedical parameters. He also presented weight maintenance and body positivity as fallacies and scientifically flawed. Weight maintenance was not encouraged, and obesity was discussed as an evil entity where people just simply needed to move more. From a humanistic standpoint, I found myself torn between the words of this expert and science, and what I have experienced in my life, the lives of my family members, the expectations of society, and the non-medical determinants of obesity. Thankfully, a Medicine and Literature session on weight bias in healthcare coincided with the lecture from this professor who spoke in absolutes.
Conflicts of interest: none, but how do we navigate personal biases and beliefs that affect our education? As a medical student, I find myself constantly bombarded by new information and ideas. The thought of trying to critically appraise every single piece of information we have is unimaginable – laughable, even. Additionally, I’m so eager to learn that we can sometimes forget to be critical or question the words of the experts in front of us. I focus on harnessing this new knowledge and being able to apply it in my future practice. I focus on my ability to help the people who will be relying on me to know the answers, to have been critical of the answers, and to provide the best and most appropriate care to them. What personal biases will I bring into these encounters, how will they affect my patients, and how will I manage them?
More broadly, I think this uneasiness stems from wanting to learn black and white answers in a field that is extensively grey. The more I learn, the more I am able to question, and the better I am able to form my opinions and thoughts regarding a certain subject. The better I am able to apply these, one day, to a patient. To end with in a relevant, albeit cheesy, manner, I found this quote to echo and further provoke my thoughts:
“In seeking absolute truth we aim at the unattainable and must be content with broken portions.”
– Sir William Osler