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Learner Profile
Jacques Balayla

Dr. Jacques Balayla

HMX Course


Jacques Balayla is an MD and also holds a Masters in Public Health. As a medical resident in obstetrics and gynecology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, he regularly interacts with patients at an important time in their lives, and often seeks out ways to be more effective in his work. “I am somebody that is always looking for new experiences – learning new things and even learning old things with a new angle,” says Dr. Balayla. He took HMX Genetics to refresh his knowledge of a field that has increasing applicability to his daily practice.

Why did you want to pursue further study in genetics?

Genetics is the field that is changing the most with time, in terms of technological advances and discovery and applicability to clinical medicine. I was not completely unaware of the topic, but I learned a ton, despite the fact that I graduated medical school only six years ago. There’s a lot of things that have changed. Genetics has never been a topic that is systematically taught, you can tackle genetics from many angles, and it depends on how you look at it. I found that the way [HMX] organized the course was just the right approach; it makes sense cohesively without going into too much unnecessary detail or too much memorization. Though I was not completely new to the topic, it felt like I was learning again because of the way that it was provided.

What were your expectations for HMX Genetics?

Before I signed up for the course, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the degree of complexity, or the specificity, or the applications to clinical medicine…But I realized as I went through the course that the material is actually very pertinent, very appropriate even for physician level in terms of clinical medicine, in terms of the application it may have in day-to-day interaction with our patients.

What aspects of the course did you find most useful?

What I found the most useful was the pattern in which every single lesson was organized – you had a general introduction, a prompting question to get you thinking about the topic. Then you had a kind of general review, and then a clinical vignette with a patient interview, and then tying those two together, which is always an issue when you’re learning basic science and trying to apply it. There’s a leap there, there’s a bit of a bridge, and it’s up to the physician himself to fill the gap. I found that this gap was brilliantly filled by the course.

How will you apply what you’ve learned as a physician?

I deliver babies, I see pregnant women, and genetics is directly applicable to what I do. We work a lot with geneticists. What I’m going to take from this the most, aside from the material itself and the knowledge I’ve acquired…I learned a lot about patient interaction, and how to talk to patients about complex subjects that are super technical and that are not very mainstream in terms of medicine. Yes, people have somewhat of an idea of what DNA is and what a gene is, but that’s the extent of common knowledge of genetics, and the challenge is for physicians to be able to sit down with a patient, work through a pedigree, work through a mode of inheritance, and start determining what are the risks for certain family members to develop certain conditions, and there’s a technical language that comes with it. I felt before this course it was always a bit of a challenge to convey these kinds of messages to my patients, and I feel like this course has facilitated that communication in a real way. I can’t say that it’s completely deciphered the art of communicating with patients on topics of genetics, but it’s certainly clarified it in my mind quite a bit.

Why would you recommend this course to other physicians?

It really felt like more [than an introduction]. It felt very comprehensive, and I think it’s going to be appealing to physicians who perhaps already have that introduction and are looking just for that extra…we have refresher courses and conferences and continued medical education where we go back to the basics and things we may have learned before and know a little bit about, but that we may not necessarily apply on a regular basis or have a complete grasp of the advancements that have taken place. This is particularly poignant with the HMX experience because it was just that, it was a refresher and an introduction and then some.

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