Feature: Learning that sticks

By Ashley Rabinovitch

Dr. Shannon Venance is fiercely committed to learning that sticks.

As Vice Dean, Undergraduate Medical Education, she is positioned to build on the strengths of the current curriculum and move the medical education field toward placing a greater emphasis on problem-solving, decision-making, and understanding patients’ lived experiences.

“We have to spend more time on conversations, whether that’s how to use person-centered language around a specific condition or working with marginalized groups,” she said. “Our students are passionate, bright social advocates. They can do the heavy lifting.”

At Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Venance is known for her warm, supportive demeanour and her willingness to engage with students. And she is respected for her collaborative style and extensive experience. She is an award-winning faculty member recognized with a Distinguished Leader Award of Excellence and the highly respected Douglas Bocking Award of Excellence in Medical Teaching.

A passion for teaching

Venance joined the team at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry in 2004. As a neurologist, her clinical focus is muscle disorders, and she works with a diverse team of health professionals in the management and care of individuals living with muscle conditions.

Soon after arriving, Venance’s passion for teaching and education research was confirmed when she took over as the co-chair of a second-year undergraduate medicine course called Neuroscience, Eye and Ear. The experience and concepts the course employed, such as team-based learning, sparked her interest in understanding the medical education system in greater depth.

She hasn’t looked back.

For nearly two decades, she has shared her expertise in change management and continuous quality improvements at the School. She has served in a number of educational leadership roles including Faculty Lead for the Doctor of Medicine Curriculum Implementation and Director of the Postgraduate Medical Education and Competency-based Medical Education Implementation.

When she’s not working, Venance and her partner of 21 years, Maura, visit their cottage in inland Georgian Bay and spend as much time as they can golfing, cycling and kayaking. These days, though, you can usually find her in the clinic or at the office, where she spends time treating patients or getting up to speed on the administrative responsibilities of her new role.

Now responsible for supporting nearly 700 students, she will draw on her decades of experience as a clinician teacher and curriculum leader to build the program and advance priorities in this multi-dimensional role.

“I’m still finding my way, but it’s exciting to continue the mission I began nearly two decades ago at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry: to make education fun and enriching while empowering students to take charge of their own learning,” she said. “There is nothing more rewarding."