Teach the Teacher : Canadian Parkinson disease clinician on a pilgrimage


Melissa Mackenzie, Fellow
Institute for Neurology
University College London

Having completed her residency as a neurologist in Vancouver, Melissa Mackenzie is spending an additional year as a fellow in the Institute for Neurology at University College London, a pioneering centre in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. She intends this experience not only to benefit the way she deals with her own patients, but also to help her develop the expertise to teach and improve clinical standards in the entire field. Her training is made possible through a Clinical Fellowship award from Parkinson Canada Research Program for $50,000 over one year.

Among the most basic tools a doctor employs to check the reflexes of a patient with Parkinson’s disease is a narrow rod with a circular head, which physicians use to poke and prod an individual’s muscles in key locations.

This device is known as a Queen Square hammer, named after the Institute of Neurology at University College London, where it was invented in the 19th century. In fact, as every practitioner who handles the hammer should know, this facility was among the first modern medical institutions to deal with movement disorders in a formal way.

Dr. Melissa Mackenzie, a neurologist who has regularly used the hammer in her work, has long been fascinated with Queen Square as a destination where she could learn more about clinical practice.

“It’s a place where you can learn from experts who have definite cachet within the field of neurology and movement disorders,” she says.

As Mackenzie neared the end of her five-year residency at the University of British Columbia, she committed herself to obtaining a year-long clinical fellowship at Queen Square in London, England. The experience would provide insights that would improve her own ability to treat patients, and allow her to teach and improve clinical standards for everyone. Her training is made possible through a Clinical Fellowship award from Parkinson Canada Research Program for $50,000 over one year.

“Fellowship is really a fantastic time to go away and get skills from elsewhere and see how other people do things, see how other health systems work, how they manage patients, what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, what we could improve at our home centre,” she says.

So far, it has lived up to all her expectations. And as exciting as it may be, she is already eagerly anticipating her return to Canada, where she hopes not only to begin her own practice, but also to conduct patient-oriented research and teach. “Not everyone has a neurologist that specialized in Parkinson’s caring for them, and even if they do, they may only see that specialist once a year,” she says. “The more we can get the word out to general practitioners about how to help people with Parkinson’s  and do no harm, the better it will be for the field as a whole.”

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