Striving for excellence in postgraduate medical education

Photograph of Dr. Lois Champion

Dr. Lois Champion started her term as Associate Dean, Postgraduate Medical Education, on January 1. An award-winning educator and mentor, she brings considerable experience in teaching, course design, learner assessment and academic administration.

Dr. Champion spoke to us about her priorities as Associate Dean, the challenges and opportunities facing medical education, the transition to competency-based medical education and how she incorporates wellness into her daily routine.

What are the strengths and unique attributes of postgraduate medical education at Schulich Medicine?

We have many faculty members who are absolutely committed to learners and their experience, who want to provide them with outstanding clinical learning and support, and to have them transition into practice being able to apply everything they’ve learned.

These trainees are going to be the future leaders of our health care system – which is a challenge because health care is growing; there’s more knowledge, there’s more technology. We need to provide excellence in training to meet that need.

With respect to training future health care leaders, what are the challenges facing medical education today?

There’s a lot for our programs to learn and adapt to right now.

In terms of patient care, we have a population that’s growing and, in fact, growing older. Many of our patients have more than one medical issue, which makes caring for patients much more complex than it was in the past.

We also have challenges from a system perspective, with respect to access to care and our health care resources.

At the educational level, we are transitioning the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) programs to competency-based medical education (CBME). We have more than 50 Royal College programs being transitioned over time. In July, we’ll have another dozen programs making that transition. It’s a real shift in how we assess our residents and how we decide on when they’ve met their training goals.

What are the opportunities in this transition to CBME?

As we transition to CBME, residency education is more individualized, focusing on direct observation and assessment of what are known as ‘Entrustable Professional Activities’ or EPAs – really identifying what learners need to be able to do, providing more opportunity for learners to identify their own learning goals, as well as an emphasis on focused and frequent assessments.

CBME really creates a culture shift and positive change for our learners and faculty. Learners have individualized, clearer learning plans which are adaptable and flexible. Learners will receive more frequent and meaningful feedback. Faculty are also able to provide more specific and timely feedback to learners and in fact, this may be quite reinvigorating for many people involved.

What do you see your role being as Associate Dean?

My role is to support our program directors and residency program committees. But most importantly, to work toward improving and striving for excellence in all of our postgraduate programs.

In PGME, our raison d'être – the only reason we’re here – is because we have residents and fellows. And that is our mission, to ensure they are receiving excellent training and support throughout their time here.

We need to ensure our programs are not only focused on clinical training, but are aware of resident wellness. Medicine is stressful and it’s challenging. Learners are at risk of being affected by that. And so, we need to be aware of this and to recognize when we have learners in difficulty, for whatever reason.

Looking ahead at your first year as Associate Dean, what are your top priorities?

The School’s postgraduate programs underwent an accreditation survey in late 2019. During the next year, my focus is on quality improvement for our programs and meeting the RCPSC and College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) standards.

The RCPSC and CFPC have increased their focus on continuous quality improvement. Medicine is constantly changing and programs have to adapt to meet patient and learner needs. The PGME Office is tasked with reviewing programs in between the accreditation surveys, making sure individual programs are on track and meeting the standards that have been set.

How would you describe your leadership style?

As a leader, I strive to be collaborative. One of my strengths is that I’m organized and task-focused. I want to see things move ahead with objectives, timelines and progress reports. I am committed to transparency and accountability.

What are you most proud of in your career and life up to this point?

My three children (aged 28, 30, 31), my husband and my two, and counting, grandchildren (four, two and one due to be born in June). That’s why I have a “Western Grandma” mug – my family knew I was getting a new office so they gave it to me over the holidays.

What do you do for your own wellness?

I weight train. At our cottage, I swim. I do needle crafts and cook or bake. I also spend as much time with my family as I can.

To be fair, it’s only recently I’ve been able to these activities. When the kids were younger, there was really no time for anything except surviving.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

I considered leaving medicine. So I guess it was a risk that I decided to stay in. Fortunately, I did.

I’ve had a career that’s had lots of clinical work, lots of on call work, lots of stress – as many residents and faculty experience. I can truly understand how difficult it actually is some days.

What is your advice to residents or fellows?

Take care of yourself and your well-being, as much as possible in this rewarding and challenging profession.