Alumni Q & A: Seema Marwaha

Physician, filmmaker, educator shares her tips with current and future alumni.

Shelby Soke - 10 August 2017

Seema Marwaha, '08 MD, describes her medical education at the University of Alberta as the springboard that allowed her to pursue amazing opportunities. With a master's degree in education from Harvard, a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in journalism from the University of Toronto under her belt, Marwaha is working to change medical education.

What sparked your passion in filmmaking and media?

I have always liked technology, art and creating things. The great thing about being at the U of A was that there were many opportunities to encourage those interests while I was doing my medical degree.

When I moved to Toronto, I had a mentor who encouraged me to integrate these interests into my career. I received a Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship, which allowed me to go to Harvard and study something that was not the traditional medical postgraduate degree. I received my master's in education and the focus was using new types of media and technology to teach―everything from video, podcasts, augmented reality and virtual reality (VR).

It made me think differently about how to teach people and how people learn and retain information.

As medical education advances, do you think multimedia will continue to play a more important role in medical education?

Absolutely. I think there is a digital divide between the students I teach and myself and between my teachers and me. There is also a digital divide growing between doctors and patients. Everything you do as a doctor―if you are patient-facing―involves teaching.

It was interesting to think about educational theory and how to be a better teacher. You can see people are immersed in what they learn in new and meaningful ways

Who are you aiming to educate?

When I first started, I was trying to create edu-tainment for a broad audience―a YouTube video or something that would be shared on social media, with educational material in it that is more subtle.

Right now, I'm trying to see if we can change the way students learn the "hidden curriculum" in medicine. I am looking at things like patient experience, empathy and compassion and trying to use virtual and augmented reality to help medical students, and eventually staff physicians, understand what it is like to be a patient.

What advice would you give an incoming student to the MD program?

I have two big pieces of advice.

Number one: There were probably a lot of interests and extracurricular activities you highlighted in your application when you were applying for medical school. It is really important to make sure those passions and interest don't fall by the wayside. It is easy when you are going through a medical curriculum to focus only on learning different disease states and how to interact with patients, but that is a lifelong learning process that will happen throughout your entire career.

Number two: Be on the lookout for a mentor who will encourage you to develop your own talents, not turn you into a mini version of them. In medicine you meet many role models and people you want to emulate, but sometimes in that process you lose yourself a little bit.

What are you working on right now?

I just completed a journalism fellowship at the University of Toronto. I am intrigued by how most people now get their medical information and news through social media and the internet. I wanted to learn how to create interesting content and hone my communications skills.

From a research perspective, we are working on a virtual reality project with Sheridan College. We are trying to develop high-fidelity VR experiences in partnership with patients. We want to help medical students or doctors really understand what it feels like to be waiting in the emergency room or admitted to the hospital.