When creativity invites itself into medicine

Prévost Jantchou is not only passionate about medicine. In the midst of a pandemic, when the world was closing in on itself and confinements forced seclusion, this professor from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Montreal reconnected with his love of writing. This return to basics recently enabled him to publish his first work, a collection of poetry entitled Take care of the words.

If the adventure began with a simple desire to put his pandemic daily life on paper, it evolved quickly. In a short time, the pediatrician specializing in gastroenterology has managed to capture an amalgam of significant moments in his life. Through texts that sometimes make you smile, sometimes think, but which above all take a look at the man and not only at the doctor, he describes his profession, his career and his personal life. “I have always loved writing and, with the pandemic, I found this taste that I had lost a little. Writing has come back as a form of leisure, of distraction. Today, I can say that words and evils are part of my life,” he says.

Eager for knowledge, he did not hesitate to learn the basics of self-publishing in order to publish his collection. “I learned to do self-publishing, to carry out all the layout stages of a document in pocket format, I also learned to talk about something we created as something that can inspire others. I started in January then, 15 days later, everything was done. My book was born”, he explains.

With a renewed passion and a first book out, he admits to already having two other projects in his boxes. Based in part on his university career which quickly confronted him with corruption in his native country, Cameroon, his second book will read more like a novel which will expose the multiple facets of access to medicine in the different countries of the world. As for the third, it will be more of a guide for future medical students who want to learn not only the workings of the trade, but also how to stand out before entering the program.

A small step between entertainment and information

However, writing is not the only art form practiced by Prévost Jantchou. Already, at university, he felt this need to express himself other than through science. During his medical studies in Toulouse, he discovered salsa, which allowed him to escape for an evening. When he did his specialty in Besançon, a few years later, he missed this hobby, but it was impossible for him to find a place to indulge in it. Never mind, he then decides to offer his own dance class in his apartment. Very quickly, the phenomenon grew and attracted more and more followers. From this initiative was born theSalsamoondo Association, which today has thousands of members and which, in addition to offering salsa lessons, supports various charities. “As soon as we started earning money through our activities and demonstrations, we decided to donate the funds to a hospital in Venezuela due to the Latin origin of salsa. We said to ourselves “We create energy by dancing and we use this energy to save and help others”, says the pediatrician. Over the years, since I trained people in this philosophy of generosity, they took over and continued. Twenty years later, it continues. It is one of my finest achievements.”

The one who was nicknamed singing doctor because of his habit of whistling and humming to newborns during his internship in neonatology, he still dances today, but differently. We will catch him wiggling his hips in some of his TikTok videos filmed in the halls of the CHU Sainte-Justine or in his office. If, before the pandemic, he did not know this social media, his rise there was meteoric. On October 24, 2021, he had 300 subscribers. “It was huge for me because I thought, if I could reach one person through a lifestyle change or a medical term clarification, I would be very happy,” he says. But in January, he publishes a video where he introduces himself as a clinician-researcher and explains the reasons that lead him to be present on the platform. In just a few days, the views and number of subscriptions to his account skyrocketed. Today, more than 82,000 people are subscribed to his channel and this video is still the most popular, with some 928,000 views. He continues: “At the time, it encouraged me a lot. We always wonder what is the meaning of his actions. I then understood that there was a break at the moment between the population and the medical profession and that many people could find important information for their health there.

Medicine accessible to all

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If his popularity on TikTok allows thousands of people to learn more about the various sufferings and diseases of his specialty, Prévost Jantchou is not new to science popularization. When he realized that many immigrants to Quebec had never requested access to a family doctor, he created the Healthy Coffee Club, which now has more than 4,000 members from around the world. He discusses, with other specialists, various issues affecting human health and the health system. “I like to educate people about their health or that of their loved ones to get them to prevent problems instead of just curing them,” he says.

However, he admits that he had to 20 years before finding his mission, that of making medical knowledge accessible to as many people as possible. Calling himself a “gatekeeper”, he tries, day after day, to facilitate access to information and resources not only for patients, but also for aspiring doctors. Above all, he wants people to care about their health and not be afraid to ask questions about it: “I want people to take care of their health. It’s something close to my heart. Moreover, doctors are the first concerned. There are many stories that demonstrate that, as caregivers, we do not pay attention to our health. I personally discovered that I had testicular cancer at a time when I spent a lot of time caring for others. So to open the doors is also to allow people to admit that they sometimes neglect themselves and that it must be remedied.

Create, dare and inspire

In August 2020, after completing his MBA studies at HEC Montréal, he set up the INSPIRE Foundation. It targets young people aged 14 to 22 to promote their academic development and help them to achieve their goals. A mentorship program is specifically designed for people from first, second or third generation immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean and the mentors who participate come from several backgrounds such as medicine, engineering, artificial intelligence , marketing and law. “My MBA showed me how important networking is, in addition to mentorship. I learned the importance of being a role model and that’s when I decided to found INSPIRE,” he says.

He attaches the same importance to the students he meets during university internships. Not having had the chance to work with doctors during his own studies, rather occupying unskilled jobs to pay his tuition, he understands today that it is necessary to know how to take the lead and look for opportunities. “To pay for my studies, I delivered newspapers, worked in restaurants, went door to door, made carnival garlands, castered corn, picked apples and telemarketing, relates the pediatrician. At the time, I didn’t know you had to dare to ask. This is also the role of a mentor. It is for this reason that I invite students to come and observe. I see how it energizes them.”

Proud of his profile as a clinician-researcher, he has also created what he calls “Sunday shows”, where he invites the student community to discuss the balance between medicine and research. “We rarely talk about physician-researchers. We are talking about doctors, researchers, but very rarely doctor-researchers. It is a small group that is set aside, but it is nevertheless a very interesting path to follow, he underlines. Personally, I find it fundamental to be able to do both, since we not only have access to hypotheses and clinical issues that we can study in the laboratory, but we can then start from the laboratory and apply the conclusions in the clinic, which contributes to change. .”

He also recommends that future doctors develop their creative side, essential, according to him, in their profession: “In medicine, we navigate in an environment where you have to have a lot of creativity, whether in relation to gestures, but also by relation to words and situations. There are often situations where we have to act quickly, since this is one of the disciplines where everything is not planned. In the kitchen, we can follow a recipe, but in medicine, even when we have a codified, standardized treatment, we cannot administer it as it is. It is important to seek the answers, to adapt and to involve the patient.”

Warm by nature, he invites people to see beyond the profession, to develop their human side. “Some doctors tend to want to keep their part of mystery, but creativity is so useful to allow escape from this profession where we live with suffering, illness and death. We have the possibility, as humans, to accompany people in this suffering. Sometimes people forget that doctors are also human beings who need to be asked how they are. Sometimes the doctor would also like to receive the words, not just the ailments,” he concludes.

We would love to give thanks to the writer of this write-up for this remarkable material

When creativity invites itself into medicine


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