Text: Bertrand Tappy
Photo: Alexandre Claude

Migration: Michael Saraga in Montreal

Michael Saraga left for McGill University in Montreal for one year to build new ties between clinical practice and social sciences.

What is your professional background?

I studied in Lausanne. After two years as an assistant in internal medicine, I received training at the Department of Psychiatry at Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). I joined the Lausanne University Medical Polyclinic as head of liaison psychiatry. It was while I was working there, between psychiatry and general clinical practice, that I got the idea to leave on an academic stay.

What was your goal when you left?

My plan was to develop a new model for integrating social sciences into medicine, in both teaching and clinical practice. And it turns out that McGill University is one of the rare institutions with a department of social sciences within the Faculty of Medicine.

How is your stay going?

Very well. I’m extremely lucky to have a whole year to develop ideas! I’m particularly interested in a mentoring programme developed by McGill University over the past ten years that lasts over the course of medical school. Students are divided up into small groups overseen by a more experienced physician recognised for his or her clinical experience. The idea is to guide students in developing their professional identity by providing them with a group work space. I think that one of the most interesting aspects is the impact this experience has on the mentors, who say that the contact with students reminds them of when they themselves were starting out in medicine. They describe it as a transformative experience.

What are your plans for afterwards?

I’ll resume my clinical practice at the Psychiatry Liaison Service at the CHUV. I’ll be working with the CHUV management to develop a hospital-wide project that follows on from my work in Montreal. And I hope that my experience in Canada will benefit both clinical practice and research. ⁄