Volunteering and Reflecting Made Me a Better Doctor


by Sylvia Botchway, Student Open Circles alumni and Board member

I joined Student Open Circles in 2011 mainly for volunteer experience, not knowing how much it was going to change my life. I spent three years volunteering with the YOUth Create program at Dr. Davey school, working with newcomer youth. As a newcomer myself, a lot of their experiences resonated with me, and I formed a unique connection with the kids. A lot of their firsts were also my first. The first time ice skating, visiting the ROM, exploring downtown Hamilton were all new and exciting experiences for me. We learnt a lot about our new home together. It was such an important part of my life and my growth.

I think the most memorable experience for me was on a random day on the playground, we discussed with some of the kids what we wanted to do in the future. I remember one of the girls wanted to be a doctor but she wasn’t sure how. She would be the first in her family, much like me. We spoke a lot about the process of becoming a doctor and shared our dreams and our fears. It was such a great opportunity to be a resource to these wonderful kids who, just like me, were trying their best to find their way.

The reflection activities in Student Open Circles taught me not just to listen but to hear people when they speak. It also made me very comfortable with being uncomfortable. Now, as a physician working in American safety net hospitals providing care regardless of ability to pay, these skills have allowed me to be a better doctor for my patients. One who hears them and recognizes the difficulty some of them face in navigating this life. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this wonderful organization and community.