From the desk of George Kim: Meet Dr. Susan Munro, co-regional director of Kent-Lambton

I’m pleased to return to my monthly updates on the work associated with the Distributed Education strategic planning process. I’m looking forward to sharing a detailed report with you in the coming weeks. As we get back into the swing of things, I wanted to introduce Dr. Susan Munro, who is our co-regional academic director for Kent-Lambton.

In her role, Dr. Munro will join Dr. Michel Haddad in providing leadership in all educational programs and processes across the medical education spectrum in Kent-Lambton. They will work collaboratively with the undergraduate and postgraduate education programs, and with Continuing Professional Development.

They will also be responsible for promoting and fostering the perspective of rural and regional health care in the undergraduate and postgraduate curriculums, while liaising with rural and regional faculty members in our education and continuing professional development programs.

Can you share some details about your background?
I was born in Fort Churchill, Manitoba, and was the child of a military family on the move, mostly growing up in Ontario, in London and Etobicoke.

I graduated with my medical degree from McMaster University, where I learned the essence and value of lifelong learning and small group learning. I did an internal medicine residency for two years in Hamilton and left the program to be an emergency room physician in Hamilton for my early clinical years. My interest in family medicine was piqued by a locum in rural medicine on the south coast of Newfoundland, in the cottage hospital system. I came back from travelling to look at practising in underserviced areas in Ontario, and began a practice in Southwestern Ontario, initially in Newbury and then Chatham-Kent. As you can see I found my niche in family medicine through a circuitous and experiential route.

I always loved and hugely supported the combination of family medicine and hospital care through the emergency and inpatient hospital experience The concept of ‘seamless care’ came naturally to me, as I was able to direct care from my office to hospital and back into the community, at home, or sometimes on to long term care. Being integrally involved with my patients at the moments of their health crises, and decision-making times in their lives, has been key to my enjoyment and passion for family medicine.

Tell us about your past experience and how it relates to Distributed Education.
Teaching family medicine and specialty medicine out in the community is key to our learners’ experience. It gives them a rich clinical experience with a sense of responsibility for their actions. These formative experiences are also driving the success of recruitment of new physicians to our communities.

Learning a lot from a role I had as chief of our family medicine department at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) for several years, I was able to initiate and lead the creation of a very successful family health team, the Thamesview Family Health Team. Our site has been the home base for developing a family medicine residency site in Chatham-Kent. Having residents live and work in our community for their last two years of training and be integrally involved in rotations at our community hospital, CKHA, has been a rewarding experience for me as the Chatham-Kent Site Director, for the initial five years, and our family medicine and specialty preceptors.

Why did you want to be an academic director?
Schulich Medicine & Dentistry is aligning the distributed education roles with its unique geography rather than by specialty departments. My new role at the School as co-regional academic director allows us to develop more local flavour, tailoring the curriculum needs of undergraduate and postgraduate levels to our strengths, as well as developing the same options for the ongoing professional development for all of us. During this next year, I will meet with our departments and help build capacity for preceptors. I will hear their concerns and listen to their ideas in order to expand on our strengths and learn to develop strategies to fill any the gaps that we may have.

In your opinion, what challenges are there for distributed medical education in Canada?
Keeping teachers enthusiastically engaged and well supported, both educationally and financially, while fulfilling their clinical duties, has becomes the most difficult challenge for us all. Schulich Medicine has a wonderful track record of graduating very successful medical students annually. We in the community celebrate with them in that success in all four years, especially with our strong contribution at the clerkship level.

What can Schulich Medicine & Dentistry do to meet these challenges?
Schulich Medicine & Dentistry will need to support our committed community teachers with opportunities of time and funding, to achieve desired additional continuing degrees/courses and share and develop community research opportunities.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I love to spend time with my husband and three children. All of my children are in some aspect of health care. I also have the recent addition of two wee grandchildren, now living just down the road. We often vacation together, either sailing, water skiing or kayaking at our cottage, on the shores of Lake Huron or traveling internationally. And sometimes, just preparing a meal together at home, with little ones running around us, is all I need to relax and count my blessings.