Feb 8, 2024

Humans of DFCM—Dr. Carleigh Clarke

Humans of DFCM, Education, Residency

For Resident Doctor Appreciation Week, PGY-1 resident Dr. Carleigh Clarke is reflecting on her training thus far and her future in family medicine

Dr. Carleigh Clarke posing in front of a scenic view
“We are given the opportunity to walk alongside patients as they navigate vulnerable moments in their health journey, and we advocate on their behalf. There is immense joy that comes with being of service to others in this capacity.”

Dr. Carleigh Clarke is a first-year resident currently training at Mississauga’s Credit Valley Hospital through the University of Toronto’s Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM). While completing her undergrad in Biochemistry at McMaster University, her fascination with human biology and pathophysiology compelled her to pursue a career in medicine. She came to U of T to complete medical school and began her family medicine residency in the fall of 2023.

“Family medicine offers a unique opportunity for you to make a long-term commitment to a patient’s health journey,” she says. “The University of Toronto helps us as learners develop the necessary competencies to support patients through that journey by training at both large tertiary centres led by renowned physicians, and smaller clinics embedded deeply within their respective communities.”

With specific interests in women’s health and global health, Dr. Clarke was, in part, drawn to the University and DFCM’s commitment to and prioritization of health equity. Knowing that patient advocacy is an important factor of primary care, she’s pleased to be learning under a curriculum that allows her to incorporate social justice sensitivity into her clinical and non-clinical practice.

“The flexibility of the residency program will open up opportunities to broaden my understanding of health advocacy and improve health outcomes in local communities and around the world,” she says.

As a result of these interests, Dr. Clarke participates in a community outreach initiative called Walk with a Future Doc, a chapter of Walk with a Doc that’s led by medical students and residents who prepare weekly presentations on various chronic diseases for community groups.

She also spent some time as an executive for Women’s Health Education Made Simple, a non-profit organization that addresses the gaps in knowledge about one’s own health—particularly women’s—by developing health education tools to improve health literacy and increase advocacy for women’s health.

“Advocacy is an important skill to develop as a resident because it will be applicable as we move forward in our individual careers,” she says.

During her residency thus far, Dr. Clarke has built strong relationships with her co-residents, patients, and established health care professionals. She’s been training with the Credit Valley Family Health Team alongside more than 20 other residents, all receiving guidance from the team’s staff doctors who have inspired Dr. Clarke to follow in their footsteps and work toward becoming a mentor to those who come after her. However, residency hasn’t come without its challenges.

“The biggest challenge of residency has been learning how to appropriately manage career and personal priorities,” she says. “Medicine can be a very busy line of work, but life continues to move forward, and you shouldn’t forget to honour the things that are important to you.”

Looking ahead, Dr. Clarke hopes to run a family practice that provides integrated primary care and social services to those who experience systemic barriers to health care.

“This model will ensure I offer a holistic approach by considering non-medical health factors influencing health outcomes,” she says. “I also hope to continue to engage in programming that concentrates on health education for women from minority groups.”

During Resident Doctor Appreciation Week, Dr. Clarke will be spending quality time with her co-residents over a day of food and fun activities at their hospital site. She’ll also be reflecting on what it means to be a family doctor and what she hopes the next wave of trainees understand about the profession.

“Family doctors provide education, counselling, and screening to optimize their patients’ health,” she says. “People often seek out their family doctor when they have concerns about their well-being, making family medicine a triage point in our health care system. It’s a very privileged role and it comes with great responsibility.”

Fun facts about Dr. Clarke

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.