Apr 3, 2024

Humans of DFCM—Dr. Aisha Husain

Humans of DFCM, Education, Faculty, Grad Studies & Fellowships, MD Program, Residency

With a medical journey spanning countries and areas of focus, Dr. Aisha Husain details what drew her back to provide care in her family’s home community and why family medicine residents should soak up as much experience as possible

Family photo featuring Dr. Aisha Husain
“The beauty of our speciality is the breadth of knowledge, skills and flexibility to practise wherever our life journey takes us.”

Dr. Aisha Husain, MD, CCFP, FCFP began her journey toward medicine with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto, during which she developed an interest in macro-level relationships and global civilizations. She then went to St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada for medical school and completed her training in four countries, primarily in marginalized communities facing housing crises, unemployment and food insecurity.

While completing electives and rotations in Jersey City, New Jersey, she learned of the city’s shortage of both family physicians and family medicine residents. Primary care was often delivered by internal medicine residents instead. In its absence, she saw how important primary care is, and, despite having a keen interest in obstetrics/gynaecology, she chose family medicine residency.

“I remember one patient I crossed paths with several times, and I’ll never forget seeing his face light up when he recognized me and I listened to his story,” she says. “Experiences like this drew me to family medicine—a speciality that harnesses the power of longitudinal relationships to ease suffering.”

Dr. Husain returned to Canada to complete her family medicine residency and is now affiliated with Oak Valley Health’s Markham Stouffville Hospital, the same hospital her late grandparents used and the one they wished for her to work at someday. Since graduation, she’s been a family physician at Uxbridge Health Centre, joining U of T’s Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) as a faculty member in 2010.

After initially starting her teaching career with medical students through the Rural Ontario Medical Program (ROMP), she now supervises family medicine residents year-round during their Teaching Practice blocks at her clinic. These placements are intended to immerse learners in the work and lives of community family doctors predominantly in independent practices.

“Each family doctor at our clinic has their unique mix of settings in which they provide care,” she says. “From the emergency room to hospital wards, retirement home rounds to long-term care visits and pre-travel consultations to focused practice in dermatology, we tailor the learners’ objectives to the expectations of the curriculum and craft a schedule that enables hands-on learning in adaptive expertise.”

“One of my biggest takeaways from teaching is that doing so through experiential learning is how adult learners learn best, not by wholly didactic teaching. The feedback from my learners is that they appreciate genuine interest in their learning, so I try to provide formative feedback to further refine attitudes, knowledge and skills needed in family medicine.”

This is something Dr. Husain learned from INTAPT (Interprofessional Applied Practical Teaching and Learning in the Health Professions), a DFCM continuing education course that helps clinician teachers and educators optimize the design and delivery of clinical education programs and integrate teaching and learning theory into practice.

“I wanted to bolster my skills and employ best practices in evidence-informed teaching,” she says. “Learning the theories of adult learning was eye-opening. It reinforced much of what I was already doing and that gave me confidence, and the focus on experiential learning lessened the pressure to have to provide didactic teaching all the time.”

For one of her final assignments, she collaborated with a multidisciplinary research team on the first concussion curriculum for family medicine residents. The team surveyed residents before and after delivering the Spiral Integrated Concussion Curriculum through academic half-days and noted increases in their knowledge and confidence, particularly in concussion diagnosis and management.

“I learned so much about the scholarship process,” she says. “From writing grant applications to iterative feedback from numerous consultations and residents. We also had the privilege of sharing this concussion curriculum globally. The team has since taken the concussion curriculum across Canada as well.”

Currently, Dr. Husain is fascinated by the potential of narrative-based medicine for healing. This is something that contributed to her own healing journey back in 2022 when she received a life-limiting diagnosis after years of seemingly innocuous symptoms.

“After hearing the diagnosis, I believed my career would have to come to a halt,” she says. “Through a process of introspection of what I truly valued, I realized how much I missed teaching and seeing my patients. I also learned that everyone who genuinely listened to my story helped me heal.”

She is now working to design and evaluate continuing professional development opportunities in narrative-based medicine leveraging Dr. Ian McWhinney’s philosophy for family physician well-being amidst systemic challenges in health care.

Exploring different areas and ways in which high-quality primary care can be delivered to patients is an important endeavour that Dr. Husain urges residents to take up themselves. She, herself, has explored emergency medicine, hospital in-patient care, care of the elderly and medical psychotherapy—all within the scope of a comprehensive family medicine practice.

“Leverage your role as a resident to soak in as much experience as possible to strengthen and broaden your knowledge and skills,” she says. “My own broad foundation continuously reinvigorates my love for medicine. It is a privilege to be a family physician and accrue knowledge about my patients on a long-term basis to provide them with the care they need.”

Fun facts about Dr. Aisha Husain

Humans of DFCM is a monthly news series profiling the department’s faculty, staff, and learners. If you know someone who you think should be part of this series, please email dfcm.commsasst@utoronto.ca.