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Not just "A Boring Version of M*A*S*H" -- Dionne Paine

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

“Wow… it’s like watching a really boring version of M*A*S*H.”

Tej’s comment provoked laughs, disbelief, and a chorus of “What! No it’s NOT!” and “We’re not boring!” Tej was sitting down and actually watching the clinic run for the first time, despite having been with us from day one. With the kitchen counter organized into a compact production line, Tej had been busy preparing hot meals for the hungry team. We ate every meal in the clinic, and grabbed our own standing lunches between patient appointments and surgeries. Our shared breakfasts and dinners were enjoyed at the same folding tables that held patients for surgical preparation (cleaned between roles, of course!). We enjoyed the most wonderful meals off our mismatched paper plates: from arrangements of fresh fruit at breakfast to eclectic homemade dinners with a smattering of local culinary delicacies. We devoured pizza with smoked char, bannock next to chilli and stew, and pasta with caribou and muskox meatballs. We carefully sampled the partially thawed narwhal ‘mataaq’ Tej had brought us as a special treat. We were busy, and we were spoiled.

I heard Tej’s “boring M*A*S*H*” comment while absorbed in a surgery with one of the team’s veterinarians. And it made me laugh because it reminded me of being a child in my father’s garage. Back then, I was a bored captive audience staring blankly at some greasy manual on a workbench, next to mystery pieces of deconstructed machinery. Meanwhile, my engineer of a father would be muttering to himself under the hood of the car, completely absorbed in solving some unknown mechanical or electrical problem. “Boring? This isn’t boring! This is exciting!” he would tell me. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see how.

This northern clinic was the same kind of thing. Just like my father’s workshop, we had fluorescent lighting and tables cluttered with mysterious paraphernalia: syringes rather than screws, and clipboards rather than catalogues. Instead of a shop fan, we had the quiet, repetitive hum of the medical machines keeping the patient on the table safely asleep. Watching surgery from a distance, one sees people in masks, standing around a lumpy blue table, muttering and picking up tools that look like tweezers and scissors. And, like watching someone else fix an engine, I suppose it makes a poor spectator sport.

I thought it was hilarious being compared to a campy 1970’s TV show. We were definitely a budgeted mobile medical clinic with a small cast; but our experience was anything but boring. This was the most real experience of my young veterinary career to date! My mind was buzzing! The long words on the medicine bottles, which were once abstract and unpronounceable names in my lecture notes, were now concrete and meaningful. In our mobile medical clinic, we were busy completing physical exams, administering core vaccines, selecting drugs, performing surgeries and discussing aftercare with owners. I spent time admiring my classmates doing all these things, and then realized I was doing the same things too. And after a full day of kneeling on the floor with patients, and sharing medical tasks with team members, I was already eager to excitedly relive the day over a hot meal. And the next day, we would do it all over again. While it might have appeared so to an onlooker, to those of us acting in our veterinary M*A*S*H* episodes, this wasn’t boring; this was exciting!

Dionne Paine, AVC 2017, traveled to Iqaluit in 2016 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Dionne's pieces

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