“If you get involved in local community, you can better challenge health issues at their core.”
Dr. Tanya Dhami

I grew up in Surrey and graduated from the UBC Surrey-South Fraser Family Medicine Residency Program in July. Staying local has allowed me to continue my community involvement throughout my early career.

I am South Asian in ethnicity, but when I was counselling patients on diet, I realized I wasn’t familiar with the nutrition and calorie content of South Asian food. Through further experience, I learned there is insufficient representation of South Asian foods in diabetes counselling. We have a large South Asian population in the Lower Mainland and, unfortunately, prevalence of diabetes is significantly higher in this community than in the general population. Three other residents and I wanted to do something that transcended the cultural and language barriers to address this shortcoming.

We found that using visual guides in diet counselling improves patient knowledge, adherence to advice and medication, patient empowerment, and health care provider confidence, as well as objective outcomes like HbA1c. We therefore created a visual guide specifically for South Asian diabetes diet counselling. We hope our guide will be taken on by future residents for further development and formal implementation. I’ve spoken to endocrinologists and colleagues who have shown an interest in using the guide in their clinics, and I’m excited to use the visual guide in my own practice.

I’m further involved in my local community by serving as a director of Students Against Violence Everywhere – SAVE Canada. We have over 30 youth leaders working on events to raise awareness against bullying, gang violence and violence against women. In August 2020, we held a fundraiser to create COVID care packages for people with low socioeconomic status in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. We also recently held fundraisers for the Surrey Women’s Shelter and the Starfish Program, which provides food to children of low socioeconomic status.

As a family physician, you’re an advocate and pillar of support for your patients and you must recognize the barriers and challenges they face. If you get involved in the local community, you can better identify those issues and challenge them at their core. Community involvement also helps develop your leadership skills, which you will use when coordinating patient care and taking the lead in a patient’s health journey.

My community involvement and extra-curriculars helped me prevent burnout, stay connected with others throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and live a balanced life outside of medicine. It’s important your life is not all about one thing.

I’m going to continue with my community involvement as I enter practice as a family physician. I will be locuming in my first year with a special interest in women’s health. On top of that, I am getting married this year – I have lots to look forward to!