Elective at Healthy Debate


This elective at Healthy Debate  is dedicated to helping train the physicians of tomorrow to become agents of change for involving patients in the health care system, with a particular focus on writing articles, opinion pieces, and producing podcasts and videos. This is a two way street – learning to describe the health care system in a manner that is understandable and interesting for patients and the public, and learning how to provide ways for the patients’ voice to be heard and be influential.

This elective will provide interested internal medicine residents and fellows with some of the tools to do this.

Time Commitment:

The electives will be four weeks in duration.


At the beginning of the elective, students will receive the following training, focused on producing material about health care for the public and involving patients in their work. Some of this will be through readings and hands-on sessions with Healthy Debate’s managing editor, editor in chief and other editorial board members. Information covered will include:

Healthy Debate’s ethical code of conduct

  • How to conceive and pitch a story (what makes a good story)
  • How to conduct a phone interview for Healthy Debate
  • How to review the literature for a Healthy Debate story
  • Conducting conversations and interviews with patients in their home environments
  • Basics of writing an article and opinion piece for Healthy Debate
  • How to involve patient experience within articles and opinion pieces


Time and Commitment:

Residents are expected to be entirely focused on their work at Healthy Debate during the elective (mandatory attendance at ambulatory clinics and education sessions are allowed). They will attend the editorial board weekly evening teleconference call (one hour long). They will respond to suggestions and edits in a timely manner.

Residents are expected to be physically present at the Healthy Debate office at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital on a regular basis.


At a minimum, during a four week elective it is expected that three fully finished products will be produced; a) one article, podcast or video about a topic; b) one opinion piece and c) one Faces of Health Care interview.

There may be opportunities for other group activities such as involvement in more lengthy podcasts on larger themes.

Every product will recognize the residents’ contribution as the originator of the piece in such a way that these can be referenced in their curriculum vitae.

Residents’ interactions with the Healthy Debate team during the elective

In order to meet the minimum deliverables of one article, opinion piece and Faces profile, topics will need to be chosen before the elective starts (so the residents can start working immediately). Therefore, before they start the elective the residents will participate in two to three of the weekly one hour teleconference meetings of the Healthy Debates Editorial Board, where they will receive feedback on their topic ideas.

There is a desk in the office of the managing editor of Healthy Debate (on the third floor of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute) that the residents can use to write and conduct phone interviews. Writing can also be done in other locations, but the residents will interact with the Managing Editor (Dafna Izenberg) and/or the Editor-in-Chief (Andreas Laupacis) on a daily basis, either on the phone or in person.

In order to write an article, residents will conduct considerable research on line, and interview an average of seven people before writing a first draft of the article. The article will then undergo several cycles of editing with members of the editorial board, Izenberg and Laupacis. For an opinion piece, there will be considerable discussion between the residents and Izenberg and Laupacis before a draft is written, and then a number of edits. The residents will conduct the Faces interview which will be transcribed. Under Laupacis’ guidance, the residents will edit the transcription to pull out the most impactful quotes, which will be combined with the photographs that will have been taken by a photographer working with Healthy Debate.

The residents will also be involved in disseminating their work through social media and other mechanisms.


Residents must demonstrate an ability to write well for non-expert audiences (podcasts and videos depend on the writing of a script before they are filmed). Prior to acceptance into the elective, residents will be asked to submit a letter indicating why they would like to do this elective and how it fits with their career plans, and to provide two topics each for an article and an opinion piece that they would like to write, and why they think the topics are important and appropriate for Healthy Debate. They may also include material they have written that illustrates their ability to write for a non-expert audience. Residents will be interviewed by the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor and one of the patients on the editorial board of Healthy Debate. Should more than one resident apply for an elective at the same time, the Editor-in-chief will select one, based on the written material, experience base and the interview.


Residents will receive ongoing feedback as they work on their various pieces for Healthy Debate. Every two weeks they will be given formal feedback on their progress with a focus on their ability to identify an interesting idea and to write for the public. At the end of the elective an ITER will be completed as a  summative evaluation by Dr. Andreas Laupacis.