Luc, Jessica

2017 Finalist: ASTech Awards

Putting the ‘Care’ Back in Healthcare

There aren’t many medical students who are simultaneously studying full time and conducting organ transplantation research while also researching improvements to medical education curriculums and collaborating on a multidisciplinary team that launched Alberta’s first cube satellite. If that sounds impossible, it’s because it pretty much is. But Jessica Luc, fourth year medical student at the University of Alberta, is proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Luc says her work covers three philosophies: “Research from bench to bedside, education from books to clinical practice, and humanism in medicine to keep the care in healthcare.”

Bench to bedside

In Luc’s second year of study, she and a group of students recognized a need to improve education for medical students in organ donation and transplantation. They collaborated with 12 schools to introduce a standardized curriculum for medical schools across Canada. Through this national endeavour, Luc and the team were invited to present at the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, which has resulted in a curriculum specifically focused on teaching the complexities of organ donation.

“It involves ethics,” says Luc. “It involves different cultures, values and how to overcome different beliefs and myths. It’s important because education and awareness is key to improving organ donation. It has the potential to save many lives.”

On the innovation front, Luc has worked for several years with researchers at the University of Alberta on developing technology to keep donor organs alive outside the body. She has seen this work move from preliminary research in petri dishes all the way to clinical trials.

“This can potentially create organs that can be transplanted across the world with no limitations in terms of geography, distance or time, which has a huge potential,” says Luc.

As with any novel technology, trial and error is part of the process with the goal of always moving forward and improving from each setback. Luc says, “I think research has taught me how to cope with failure and how to overcome it. Failure is a setback for a set up to succeed. That’s how I like to think about it. You fail your way to success.”

Books to clinical

Another focus of Luc’s education research looks at the widely known but little understood concept of cramming. As a medical student, Luc is no stranger to cramming for exams. She wanted to determine if this form of studying is a necessary evil, beneficial tool or serious detriment. With supervisors from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Luc researched whether cramming made a difference in knowledge retention by cardiothoracic surgery trainees.

From the preliminary data submitted for review but not yet published, Luc demonstrated that cramming, as defined by an increase in one’s baseline studying by 30% as tracked by a online web-based curricula, did not have an effect of exam performance. However, cramming may have a unique benefit for trainees who initially score low and seek to significantly improve their subsequent year’s exam performance.

Luc adds, “It is our hope that by shedding light into quantitative metrics of trainee study habits, we can allow trainees to make an informed decision regarding how they choose to study to optimize their performance on future standardized exams and patient care.”

Luc has also been working on debate as a tool for medical literature understanding and application. The journal club pits two trainees against each other to defend their position on controversial or unsolved topics in cardiothoracic surgery. With a firm grasp of literature that supports their position as well as their opponents, Luc and the researchers found this approach helps students understand how to apply literature to clinical practice and the counsel of patients. She is currently involved in a multi-institutional educational trial that is currently underway to evaluate the effectiveness of a debate-style cardiothoracic surgery journal club in surgical education.

Humanism in healthcare

In addition to all the medical research and curriculum improvements, Luc started a non-profit organization called Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful. The goal of the organization is to promote beauty in all shapes and forms through their inclusive fashion shows and magazine-versus-reality photo shoots.

Luc explains, “Being yourself, Be-you-tiful, is the true way to be beautiful. We need to be more accepting of each other to promote a more-inclusive society.”

Luc wants this mindset to extend into her medical endeavours as well. She says, “I believe being a good physician isn’t just being good at medical knowledge. It also means being a professional, a good communicator, a good collaborator, a good manager, health advocate, scholar and educator.”

As Luc balances her interests and her studies, she says this mindset has improved her own resiliency.

“I believe that there are no limitations in what we can do, only limitations to what we think we cannot do. So, don’t think we cannot, think we can and don’t stop until you finish. Success if a personal progress, and it is simply being better tomorrow than we are today. ”

Luc concludes that success cannot be achieved in a vacuum. “Being in Alberta was essential to my achievements thus far. I’ve had innumerable support from the University of Alberta and different funding bodies.”

From all her different research supervisors to her parents, Luc explains, “I will always remember my roots and am so grateful for all the people who contributed to my success. I look forward to the opportunity to help others as I have been helped.”