Shad2013 Christian Farrier always wanted a career where he could make an impact. He considered economics, science, and even cooking and baking for a period of time. But being involved in the healthcare system most of his life, he knew medicine was the right fit.

And it certainly is. Now as a pediatrics resident at the University of Calgary, he’s delivered 50 babies, champions patient- and family-centred care, and will soon pursue a DPhil in Primary Health Care at the University of Oxford.

Christian’s first encounter with the healthcare system started the moment his brother came into the world. Being born at 22 weeks and 5 days gestation, he was the youngest surviving premature baby in Alberta at the time. Many surgeries, speciality clinics, and healthcare providers later, his brother’s health strengthened and he is now a successful software engineer.

“That journey meant that I was surrounded by the pediatric healthcare system growing up,” says Christian.

At fifteen years old, Christian became a patient himself. After undergoing Thoracic surgery—which meant he had to defer his Shad experience one year— he spent a week in the hospital and three months recovering.

“It gave me a lot of perspective and insight in what I’d see my brother and family going through over the years. Through that experience, I became a Patient and Family Advisor with Alberta Health Services.”

It’s these moments, paired with his training at the University of Calgary, that help him understand how valuable connection and compassion is to patients and families.

“Medical knowledge, technology and advancement are certainly very important and it’s great when we’re able to cure different problems or provide effective treatments. But I think some of the experiences that have stood out to me the most are when we’re not able to cure or fix the problem.”

“What makes you a really remarkable and wonderful healthcare provider is when you can remember that for your patient, this is anything but routine. This is your daily reality but for them this is most likely one of the scariest, most vulnerable experiences of their life.”

Now with COVID in the mix, he and his colleagues are continuing to learn and attend sessions about the virus as the pandemic clocks on.

When Christian started medical school, a condition called MIS-C (Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children) didn’t even exist. Now as a resident, it’s part of his differential diagnosis—a list of possible conditions based on a patient’s symptoms.

Christian prioritizes patient- and family-centred care through this time, engaging patients to make their care experience as fun and enjoyable despite their condition.

“We just recently got buttons that we put on our lanyards with a picture of what we look like.”

This lets patients know who they are “behind the mask, behind the goggles, behind the isolation gowns.”

Going into Shad, Christian was excited to learn, dive into STEAM, and see different perspectives. 

He remembers spending a day at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton, learning about radiation and leading-edge health treatments.

“That definitely was influential in deciding what university program to go to because I think at that point, I didn’t even know there were specific health sciences undergrad programs, and some that were really intersectional.”

Christian and fellow Shads during the Shad2013 program at McMaster University.

That experience also helped him decide on a course to take years later while studying at the Cumming School of Medicine.

“I remember I found that super interesting at the cancer centre back when I was sixteen at Shad. I did do one of my electives in Victoria at their cancer centre in radiation and medical oncology.”

Christian still stays in touch with his Shad2013 Program Director, Kingsley Hurlington, receiving a congratulatory message from him after being named a Rhodes Scholar.

Christian also forged another Shad connection over the years when he was part of a group called the Scholars Academy during his undergraduate studies. The group is for high-achieving students in different disciplines to connect and learn through projects, mentorship opportunities and speaker series.

It was Jessica Cohen, the Scholars Academy Director—and a Shad Program Director—who encouraged him to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship.

“I really saw Shad as a wonderful intersection of understanding how things work, like science and research, and building our understanding in really cool ways,” says Christian. “But also, the humanity and the compassion, empathy, and that real connection with people.”

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