A Snapshot of Student Ministry

Posted Nov 15, 2019

Every quarter our Associate Staff send us reports on their ministry to students on campuses across Canada. These reports give us valuable insights of the trends in student ministry, help us assess where additional support may be needed, and help our Associate Staff learn from each other’s experience. We are so blessed by the work of our Associate Staff and Campus Ministry leaders across Canada. They include paid staff and volunteers who recognize that medical and dental school are a critical time to step in and provide support to students. For this issue of FOCUS which centered on Students and Residents, we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the work of our staff and also show you places where they need prayer and for graduate doctors and dentists to come alongside to magnify the impact of their work.

Munjula Saito – University of Western Ontario

We’ve been going through the Gospel of John at our lunch time weekly meetings. Attendance is increasing. Last week 11 signed up to come but in the end there were 18 of us. Every week, a small miracle happens and there is enough food but I was a bit nervous last week. I’d say the community is growing and I am committed to working on getting the 1st and 2nd years connected and that’s one of the benefits of a lunch time gathering. People are at the school already and need a break. I make a nice lunch and take it over. There at least 15 Christian 2nd year dental students. I know CMDA Canada attracts more medical students than dental, but when you think about it, dental students are there in the school for 4 straight years! Clerks and 4th years are mobile for schools with 4 year programs. My goal is to have a solid core of dental students and I can bring in speakers and have special events that are targeted for each group with a good opportunities to interact and get to know the other faculty. 

David Ritz – McGill University

We have had a good semester. We have been meeting every two weeks going through the Health, Illness and Healing study. It’s been really well received. We have had all the 4th year students come back and begin attending again, which has been really exciting. We are trying to figure out the best way to get the 1st years involved. We do advertise free food, but are struggling to really get the 1st years who are ingrained into the study.

We did a joint event with Muslim Medical Student Association and the Whole Person Care student group this semester that went really well. We had a panel discussion on what the role of spiritual care is with regards to seeing a person achieve whole health. We had a Christian psychiatrist, a chaplain from the Montreal General Children’s Hospital, a Muslim family doctor, and a non-practicing Jewish Zen buddhist surgeon. We had good discussion, and it was agreed that we needed to do it again, and are looking to do another event in the fall. Excited to see how this can continue to evolve! 

Now we are looking ahead at future leaders, and the next academic year!

Jon Dykeman – University of Toronto

The past few months have gone by very quickly. We are currently in a stage of connecting with students who are finishing up their programs and thinking ahead to what is next in life. It is bittersweet for a lot of us.

St. George Medicine

Our group decided to change our early morning prayer and Bible FOCUS 39.2study time to Mondays at lunch hour and this has proven to be a positive adjustment. Only 1st year students were not able to make it out to our early morning sessions previously as they are. Meeting at lunch has made for a time for second year students were able to join. The turn-out still hasn’t been fantastic. We get about three or so students who come out regularly. I know some of it has to do with many of the students having to run off to the hospital for class. I will be having a conversation with one of our student leaders and trying to figure out what I am missing (if anything) or how we can do better.

That being said, God has opened the doors for me to connect with more residents. We have a monthly Residents’ Bible study.. This is hosted by a young physician. I have met with one resident multiple times to chat about some of the challenges and demands of her program and other conversations about relationships and Baptism. We also recently had a board games night for mainly residents

We had more students come out for our bi-annual CMDA Canada Dinner, where our students lead worship

Dental Christian Fellowship

This group continues to be faithful in coming to our regular meetings. We regularly have anywhere from five to twelve students gathering for Bible study. We have been working through the book of Esther and have recently started reading “The Cost of Discipleship”.

Last Friday, a group of us went to the Rec Room, which is an arcade-style place. We had dinner and socialized together. It was a lot of fun.

I have also been walking with a 4th year student through his decisions around what he will do when he graduates and where he will be. We are also planning an end of year Dental Fellowship gathering for our graduates – about five students who have been a part of the fellowship.

Mississauga Academy of Medicine 

Our humble group of two students gathers every Thursday for a study on Proverbs and worship. This group again is small – in previous years it was our larger group – about seven or eight students. God is reminding me this year of my need to be grateful for those who do want to be a part of our fellowship and not to be obsessed about numbers. It can be a real distraction from doing actual ministry when we dwell too much on this.

Jolene Felsbourg-Linton – Northern Ontario

I continue to send out the weekly updates that include local and national CMDA Canada events, community events connected to churches, the hospital and university and prayer requests. I have been promoting the FOCUS magazine. I have about 25-30 people who receive the weekly update.

I was able to encourage a physician who was having a difficult time in January and feeling overwhelmed. In February, many of the students were on placement in Indigenous communities – some in the far north in fly-in communities. We kept them in prayer.

I had lunch at the hospital with a resident on placement in the ICU. I connected with a 4th year student and another resident connected with CMDA Canada while they were doing placements on the Peds and mental health units.

I was able to connect a few physicians from two Northern Ontario and one Southern Ontario who were swapping some academic presentations. I also planned a dinner out and was joined by two residents and their families for pizza.

In February, there was a lot of buzz amongst the email group to have a presentation on Pro-Life and MAiD issues at the Sudbury NOSM campus. Thunder Bay and North Bay showed interest in connecting via technology. Unfortunately, when I put out a call for someone to help me plan the event all chatter stopped – I literally have not heard a single word since asking if someone wanted to help me host this event. With some help, I wanted to plan something before the school year is over. Without help, I am aiming to plan something in the fall seeing the group will need to do some fundraising for a speaker.   

A physician in North Bay emailed me for suggestions and provide encouragement on how to start CMDA Canada activities in that community. I have suggested that this summer we plan the CMDA Canada picnic somewhere between the two communities to connect.

In March – A few students and a resident came out for a Sudbury Five pro basketball game with me next weekend – I have been connecting 1:1 with physicians to see if they can join us. Dr. Ryan and Sue Carlson are hosting a games night for students in April. I am also going to try a spring hike and prayer time on Holy Monday/Earth Day in April on the trails near Laurentian University.

My ongoing challenge this year again has been securing physician participation in any activities with the students. I have had a physician in Thunder Bay and North Bay curious to how they can start events in their communities, but in Sudbury, the doctors are rarely available to participate. I have been planning the kind of events that they can bring friends and family out to rather than Bible studies as was requested in the fall but still, there is very little response.

Some interesting prayer requests – a local family physician who is connected with the Christian school but not CMDA Canada requested prayer for this family going on a mission trip. The trip was cancelled at the last minute due to unrest in Haiti – sometimes prayers for protection get answered in unexpected ways.

We kept a summer camp in prayer as they were choosing counsellors for the summer – a few Christian physicians and a dentist connected to CMDA Canada send their kids to this camp for the summer.

Over the winter I have been collecting coats and shoes for adult mental health seeing these are high need items. One student donated an old coat this winter which was very kind.

Ben Jolliffe – University of Ottawa

We have been meeting weekly over the last month or two, alternating between an evening event and a morning prayer meeting. Prayer meetings aren’t super well attended, usually 4-5 of us, but the two student leaders of CMDA Canada have been very faithful.

Our evening meetings are most often a Bible study. We are working our way through Philippians, piece by piece. We do an inductive study without prearranged questions, working through observation, interpretation and application to see what God wants to teach us through his Word. 

We have also had a few evening events interspersed with the Bible studies. A few weeks ago, we co-sponsored an event with two other faith groups (Muslim and Jewish associations) where doctors spoke of the relationship between their faith and their practice. They covered issues like MAID, abortion, as well as the more ordinary practices. Around 20 students came and the Catholic physician spoke well from the Christian perspective.

We also had a few weeks before that, Drs. John and Sally Patrick come and speak. They are local physicians involved with CMDA Canada. We had a dinner and an evening at the house of one of our student leaders.

Overall, it has been a really good Spring. We have two great leaders who attended the Student Leadership Retreat and I am excited to see how things finish up for the year.

Don Corry – McMaster Univeristy

Our monthly meetings have continued at the Harvey’s. We had a great turn out in January, especially among the first year students. It was quite encouraging.  The topic was abortion and we had a guest speaker who provides counseling for those considering abortions. In February Dr. Jane Dobson led us in a discussion primarily around transgender issues. This did not have students attending, but rather more residents. In March we combined with the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians and Societies had a presentation on assisted suicide.  Two 1st year medical students came. We are looking forward to our banquet in April with Jean Chamberlain speaking.

I have been meeting with students on Tuesdays for lunch after class.  We have talked about current issues they are facing. One student is struggling with pornography and is spending too much time late at night, so he is not sleeping enough. Another student has had difficulty speaking up in tutorials so that she has received poor ratings from her preceptor.  We have discussed how she can present herself better and perhaps get an advocate in her group to help her gain a platform. Another student has faced some doubts about the Bible and the Canon. We worked that one through.

The students had been meeting regularly on their own in the Fall, but this has stopped. They are trying to resurrect it. We did have students go to the Eastern Retreat and the SLC. That was encouraging.

Roger Berrington – University of Manitoba

The term has been a bit tricky with the new curriculum and it’s more frequent and demanding exam schedule but we continue to plug away. 

 Thursday lunch bible studies continue when students are available and we have had up to 14 students attend. We are working through excerpts from the gospels. 

 We have had a couple more free campus breakfasts with over 200 students and staff being blessed by this simple act of hospitality and kindness. We had 20 students attend the Western Student Retreat, the most ever. 

CanU wrapped up in Early March and once again some key CMDA Canada students were involved in supporting this healing good work in our city for kids growing up in adversity. CMDA Canada’s partnership in CanU generates as does the breakfast a reputation that is strong and respected. CanU is a recognized service learning provider and has over 150 faculty of health sciences students volunteering in two key programs. 

We have a new group of student leaders signed up for 2019-20. Including a 2nd year dentistry student. 

I continue to meet one on one with med students for all kinds of reasons and feel like I am in a good spot being guided by the Spirit and seeking to be open to recognizing the Kingdom of God and how near each student is to it. Customizing our conversations based on these factors.