Celebrating a decade of medical education excellence

By Jennifer Parraga, BA'93

Dr. Carol Herbert remembers the conversation like it was yesterday. Dr. Herbert, the former Dean of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, was sitting beside Ross Paul, PhD, then the President and Vice Chancellor of University of Windsor during his son’s convocation.

As they waited for the ceremony to begin, Dr. Herbert and Paul chatted about the Commission established by the Ontario government that was examining physician supply and distribution problems in medical care service. The Commission had reported that Windsor and the region were underserviced.

This was not news to the people of Windsor, and they had already started activating a plan to move forward with increased medical education in the region. It was believed that a freestanding new medical school was unlikely to be supported by the government, but there was hope that a partnership could develop between Western University and the University of Windsor.

This type of partnership took an enormous effort, and Dr. Herbert says that mutual trust and respect were keys to the success of moving through the planning and implementation.

“We chose the partnership route rather than a satellite approach,” said Dr. Herbert. “That took more effort but it has been better for the Windsor region and the students.”

After nearly a decade of planning and development, the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry – Windsor Campus opened with the first class in 2008.

Dr. Herbert is quick to recognize the tremendous efforts of all community leaders and faculty members who were part of the planning of the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry – Windsor Campus, and have continued to support it.

“Tribute must be paid to the founding faculty and leaders and to the staff and community, as well as to the generosity of academic leaders who succeeded in obtaining expansion dollars and worked to increase capacity in London, and develop the new Campus,” she said.

Now, 10 years after the first medical school class began their studies, the question is raised about the success of the partnership and the Campus.

Dr. Michael J. Strong, current Dean, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, says the approach worked brilliantly.

“Thanks to the community and the partnership between the two universities, more than 200 medical students have graduated after completing their studies at the Windsor Campus, and there are 149 students at any given time pursuing their studies in Windsor,” he said. “If you take that one step further, we now have students who completed the entirety of their training in Windsor and are now practising in the community. That’s exactly what this was designed to do and it has been successful in achieving it.”

Gerry Cooper, EdD, who became Associate Dean of the Schulich Medicine – Windsor Campus in 2011, agrees. As a community member, he has seen a significant change in the number of physicians now practising in the region. He attributes this to the fact that many students being trained in the community are staying following completion of their studies. It is estimated that approximately 75 per cent of family medicine trainees have opted to practise locally after graduation.

He also believes that physicians are now more attracted to the Windsor community because they have the opportunity to engage with a medical school and contribute to an academic environment.

For the past 10 years, the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry – Windsor Campus has become the pride of the community. It’s not difficult to understand why when hearing about the long list of achievements.

When asked about the Campus’ major achievements, Cooper had a difficult time choosing only a few. His list of achievements, amongst many others, includes the Charter Class having a 100 per cent CaRMS match at their convocation; the Canadian Federation of Medical Students hosting their Annual General meeting in Windsor – the first time it was ever held at a regional campus; the growth of a research-valued culture; the establishment of the Schulich UWindsor Opportunities for Research Excellence Program, student engagement with community-based organizations, and the local aspects of the now annual Interprofessional Education Day.

“Honestly I am scratching the surface here, but suffice it to say there are many very special and satisfying moments of which we can all be proud,” Cooper said. “The fact that we have a built an energized, vibrant culture is very important.”

In March, more than 300 people gathered to celebrate the Awards of Excellence recipients in Windsor. The annual awards celebration was expanded, this year, to celebrate the anniversary and a decade of medical education excellence. It was a joyful evening and an opportunity to reflect on the success of the Campus.

Cooper believes that the next decade will be an exciting one for medical education generally and for Schulich Medicine & Dentistry – Windsor Campus specifically.

“As the reputation of the School increases across Canada, we will see more and more students coming to the community to learn, and with a new single-site acute care hospital being built will create new opportunities for learners and faculty, to name a few,” he said.

Dr. Herbert believes that if medical schools are to be socially accountable, they must continue to monitor community care needs and modify educational experiences to ensure medical students have experiences across the continuum from rural to urban, including communities of special need in urban centres, and they will need to learn from role models who provide superb clinical care in those settings.

The Schulich Medicine & Dentistry – Windsor Campus has been achieving this for the past 10 years, and is extremely well positioned to continue for the future.