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Can Fam Physician. 2010 February; 56(2): 134.
PMCID: PMC2821231

Lessons learned

The November 2009 issue of Canadian Family Physician included an article written by me entitled “The other side of the speculum.”1 Several responses to its publication questioned both the editorial judgment of this journal and my own character.2,3,4

My intent in writing the article was to highlight the very real discomfort felt by myself and other male and female medical students when asked to conduct examinations such as Pap smears for the first time. For myself, this discomfort stemmed from multiple sources: I was uncomfortable with the authority and respect that I had been given but did not feel I had earned; I did not feel adequately prepared, but was uncomfortable telling my preceptor; and I knew that there was an expectation that I perform the procedure. These issues are rarely addressed or raised in a substantive way.

In writing about this discomfort I made use of a common defence mechanism—humour. I regret that some readers might have found the article offensive or insensitive, as that was not my intent. I apologize and accept responsibility for this. I understand that Pap smears are difficult and even traumatic for many women and am particularly sorry for those comments that were made at the expense of patients. Regardless, I will continue, as I always have, to devote myself to providing patients with the best and most respectful care possible.


1. Thoma B. The other side of the speculum. Can Fam Physician. 2009;55:1112.
2. Tai C. Concern about process [Letters] Can Fam Physician. 2010;56:17. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Greenberg GR. A lesson in patient-centred interviewing [Letters] Can Fam Physician. 2010;56:17. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
4. Ogle KD. Printing error? [Letters] Can Fam Physician. 2010;56:17. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Canadian Family Physician are provided here courtesy of College of Family Physicians of Canada