Thomas McFarland Shares Reading Bears in Kelowna


Thomas McFarland, MD 2020
Co-chair of the Kelowna RBS Chapter

Being new to the Kelowna region, I have found it incredibly rewarding being part of such a wonderful project that brings me into the community. Being from a large Ontario family with many young cousins and family friends, I spend much of my time at home around kids. Being a member of the Kelowna RBS group has given me the opportunity to not only spend more time playing and laughing with children, but also to educate and inform them, and share in their learning.

I love the Reading Bear Society because of its pursuit of building mentorship between medical students and young children. One of the best parts of being a medical student in second year is that although you really don’t know anything about medicine yet, you are an ambassador for the field of medicine. This means that you get to go in to a classroom full of children, and encourage them that going to the doctor, which is really you at these visits, can be a truly fun and positive experience. I was never taught this as a child, so I find it incredibly fun and engaging to be a part of now, and I think the children really feel that way as well.

So far in the Kelowna chapter we have been able to recruit over 20 volunteers, and bring our teaching module to over 15 schools, with a grand total of 21 visits and 436 children! Every visit we have incredible feedback from teachers, and even more teachers, parents, guardians that want us to come to their primary schools and StrongStart programs to spend some time with their children! Our program is truly growing quite strong here in Kelowna, with no shortage of bookings with our schedule, and visits to classrooms twice a week! We have had so much interest, that I have decided to begin creating an orientation video for incoming volunteers for future years. This has allowed me to record some of our visits and share pictures and media within the Reading Bear Society group at all sites, to show how much fun we are having!

The best part of my week is when I’m in the classroom. When I say that, I don’t mean sitting in lecture listening about heart disease, I mean turning a cardboard box into an x-ray machine so that children can scan their teddy bears and tell me what’s wrong with them. The children never cease to amaze me with how brilliant they are, by saying “stethoscope” better than I can. Who knows, maybe they should be wearing the white coat instead of me. I love being with the Kelowna RBS group because every time we have a visit it reminds me that we are all kids at heart.