2016 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award Recipient: Sarah Silverberg

Oct 13, 2016
Tabitha Chan

Sarah SilverbergThird year clerk Sarah Silverberg has been announced as a Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF) award recipient. The CMFH awards recognize young leaders who demonstrate leadership through community involvement, superior interpersonal and communication skills, academic excellence and an established interest in advancing knowledge. 

With a passion for health advocacy, Silverberg has worked to raise awareness regarding antimicrobial resistance and stewardship, leading to the creation of the national organization Students of Antimicrobial Stewardship Society (SASS).  Writer Tabitha Chan discusses Silverberg’s passion for health advocacy and what it means to win this prestigious award.

How does it feel to receive a Canadian Medical Hall of Fame award?

I'm incredibly honoured to be a recipient of the award; I have so many incredibly talented colleagues. I feel humbled to be among those chosen. Seeing the work and accomplishments of the CMHF laureates has inspired me to continue to learn about and work to improve our health care system.

What made you realize that you were passionate about advocacy and health policy? 

I come from an interdisciplinary background, and I've always been interested in how health care interacts with broader society, how it functions and how we can build systems that can positively affect the health of large populations. Many of our policies have profound impact on the health of Canadians. Even small changes to policies can make a difference, especially to those most vulnerable and most in need of services.

During my undergrad at McMaster, I had an incredible opportunity to learn about advocacy through completing a hands-on, self-directed global health advocacy course. Since then, I've sought out opportunities to learn more about policy development, as well as global health. This year I've been elected VP Government Affairs of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. I hope to continue building skills and expertise related to health policy, to represent Canadian medical students at the federal level, and to help others develop stronger advocacy skills along the way. 

What sparked your interest in antimicrobial stewardship? Why do you think this is an important issue?

One of my professors and mentors is also interested in the topic. It kept coming up in the classes I took on health governance, which gave me avenues to explore the many policy challenges it faces. It’s such a challenging topic because it is so multi-disciplinary. It challenges our perceptions of medication and what constitutes as ‘good care’. It’s an issue of collective action or a tragedy of the commons. As physicians, we need to work together to prescribe more cautiously. It's hard to think about a large-scale, abstract problem when you have a patient in front of you who might be sick. But antibiotics form the backbone of much of modern medicine. I don't want to practice in a world where we can't provide adequate prophylaxis during surgery or defend against common infections. It's a pretty unique problem that involves both local solutions, from a doctor speaking with a patient, to global agreements at the international level. I also believe we can break the cycle, and we have an opportunity as a new generation of physicians to do better.

Are you currently working on a research project?

This summer, I had the privilege to work at Sick Kids Hospital in the Centre for Global Child Health with Dr. Daniel Roth, looking at risk factors for low infant growth in infants in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It has been a new and challenging experience to learn so much about epidemiology, research methods, global health research and child growth. I've found it to be quite different from school, but also very rewarding.

How has the first month of clerkship been?

Clerkship so far has been a blast. I've started out in Family Medicine, at Credit Valley Hospital. While it’s challenging to be able to manage the diversity of different concerns patients present when they walk through the door, I find I'm learning so much every day. I’ve grown to appreciate the importance of building relationships with patients over time, to be able to care for the whole patient, and their family.

How do you maintain a healthy work/study/life balance? What do you enjoy doing when you're not in school?

I think it’s really important to try to maintain a balance and remember to have a life outside of medicine. I love listening to podcasts on all sorts of topics including, politics, comedy, arts and culture. I also love playing board games, sports, trying new recipes and exploring the city. I try to see my extended family almost every week and maintain friendships outside of medicine, which helps to keep me grounded. 

Learn more about the 2016 CMHF recipients.


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