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Dr. George Kim leads distributed education development at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry

A self-proclaimed "people watcher" who is fascinated by the human experience, it’s not surprising that Dr. George Kim, MD’03, is currently reading Humans of New York. The book is a New York Times bestseller, featuring the photography of Brandon Stanton and the real-life stories behind the images of the people living in New York City.

It’s the perfect compendium for a man who believes in the value of relationships and who is always striving to understand more about the people he works with, cares for and teaches.

A family doctor and educator, Dr. Kim has recently taken on a new role as Assistant Dean, Rural, Regional and Community Engagement.

Top on his list of priorities is leading the charge on the School’s transformation of its Distributed Education Network (DEN) – a program that has a foundation based on relationships.

While taking on this new role means he will have to cut down on his teaching, he felt it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass on. “I have enjoyed the undergraduate teaching experience, and I am sad to give some of it up,” he said. “The DEN work is about renewal and keeping things fresh, and I wouldn’t miss that opportunity.”

It’s really thanks to Dr. Jim Rourke, who is known as the founder of the distributed education program at Schulich Medicine that Dr. Kim ended up at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. After listening to Dr. Rourke make a presentation about rural family medicine, Dr. Kim decided he would apply to medical school at Western.

“I met Dr. Rourke, and listened to him talk about rural family medicine – about delivering a baby, about counselling families, about working in the emergency room," Dr. Kim said. "He created this experience that I could see myself being a part of. He was happy and he was inspiring. I just thought to myself, I have to go there, I have to try.”

It was the turn of the 21st century, and a time when Schulich Medicine & Dentistry was considered somewhat avant-garde in its approach to medical education. “When I was in medical school, medical education was non-transparent and a private enterprise," he said. "Schulich Medicine’s philosophy was very different, however."

Dr. Kim believes Schulich Medicine offered a very unique experience as the learners and faculty jointly contributed to the curriculum. This was a time when BCOE was born, the full capacity of the Hippocratic Council was created and the Wellness office was established.

“It was an unparalleled experience,” said Dr. Kim.

Following his Family Medicine residency and the completion of his master’s of Clinical Science, Dr. Kim joined the Department of Family Medicine (DOFM) as an adjunct professor and became the Clerkship Coordinator. 

Passionate about education, Dr. Kim jumped at an opportunity to teach a first-year course as soon as it was presented. The course was a six-class series in the first block of medical school when students have the opportunity to discuss a nonmedical expert topic. “We explore different parts of medicine including the value systems that we want our physicians to embody.”

The course has since been aptly nicknamed: “Fireside chats with Dr. Kim”.

More classroom responsibilities followed and Dr. Kim soon added clerks and residents to his practice.

Fast forward to 2014, and Dr. Kim is about to make some of the biggest changes to the School’s distributed education program since its inception.

His vision for the program mirrors that of Dr. Michael J. Strong, Dean, and other senior leaders of the School. “I want us to be the destination of choice for distributed education and the exemplar. I want us to build on the good relationships that already exist,” he said.

The overall goal is to position Schuich Medicine & Dentistry’s distributed education model as the leading distributed medical education program in Canada.

A new strategic plan for distributed education was undertaken in the winter of 2013, following extensive research, analysis, engagement with leaders, physicians and faculty across the School’s distributed education network. The plan maps out the direction for the program’s redevelopment.

Committees comprised of the School’s leaders, faculty and staff are currently working on the plan with hopes of having a redeveloped program in place by late 2015. It’s a major undertaking, but Dr. Kim has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

As part of the School’s leadership team, Dr. Kim has also turned his attention to some of the challenges he believes Canadian medical schools are facing today. This includes more consideration being given to having a nimble pedagogical model that resonates with today’s learners.

Dr. Kim believes we are at a crossroads in terms of education. “Students today aren’t engaged by sitting in a classroom for five or six hours, and at the same time, they won’t be able to develop strong relationship skills learning online.”

While Dr. Kim definitely has his hands full with his own practice, teaching and work on the DEN strategic plan, he continues to seek out new ways to build relationships across the School.

He recently celebrated his Twitterversary, and has the unofficial honour of being the School’s most active and engaged faculty member on social media.

For him, Twitter is another way to celebrate those around him, connect and communicate with people, and build relationships.