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Dr. Marnie Howe

dr. marnie howe

Role at the Centre

Leader, Home-care program

Home-care doctor

Year became a doctor

2008

Year started at the Centre

2011

Shares a practice with

Dr. Ciara Whelan & Dr. Elizabeth Amos

Sometimes life gives us a nudge in an unexpected direction. She doesn’t say so; not right out, but it’s easy to believe that life nudged Marnie Howe when she moved to Toronto to do her Family Medicine residency at the University of Toronto. She’d been at medical school in London, Ontario. She had no clinical experience of palliative medicine at that point, but the first elective she was placed in was a palliative medicine rotation. “I loved it. I loved getting to know the patients and their families. I knew right from that first rotation that it was what I wanted to do. I knew I just liked the focus.”

She explains: “We’re totally focused on trying to give our patients good quality of life while they’re in the process of dying. It’s such an important role, giving quality of life and comfort to people at that fragile time. You really get to know your patients.”

The key difference for Marnie is seeing the patients in their own homes. “It’s such a rich experience. It’s amazing. I still remember one of my first visits. The patient, a woman, was so unassuming, so modest, but downstairs in her home she had all these framed paintings. Her paintings. She wouldn’t have told me she was an artist if I was in the clinic with her. You don’t see that unless you’re in the home. You don’t see how they’re functioning. How they’re coping.”

“In clinics it can be very rushed at times, but in the home you have more time. You get to witness these really intimate moments with the patients and their loved ones. You get reminded of how much they are loved by their family members and friends. They’re so dedicated to their care. It’s nice to be reminded of that on a daily basis. There are some really good people out there. Everyday heroes. It is lovely.”

Marnie also says treating patients throughout the trajectory of their illness, from diagnosis, through symptom management to end-of-life care is a satisfying part of her job.

Like her colleagues, Marnie's experience at the Centre has taught her humility. “My friends have commented on the change they see in me. I’ve become a little more reflective, I think. The more I practise palliative medicine, the more I realize that each patient’s illness experience is unique. As a doctor that’s a challenge I relish.”

 

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