Getting geared up for the journey ahead

Welcome back from vacationland. I trust you had an enjoyable summer (even if it went by too quickly). That said, I always look forward to September because it is, a new beginning. Most of us have experienced the start of our school year in September and this imprinting, present since we were very young children, has remained a part of our personal experience and indeed our culture for a long time (longer for some of us than others).

For this reason, it is understandable how we associate September with mixed emotions: on the one hand it draws a conclusion to the carefree days of summer (even if autumn does not begin until September 23 this year) and on the other it signals a moving forward, a new connection and/or reuniting with friends and colleagues from academe and the wondrous opportunities associated with acquiring new knowledge and skills.

As with the past few years, the fall is a busy time for medical education. Thankfully our new residents had their start back in July and by now are firmly on their way. Medical students, however, commence their academic year in September and given that their numbers are greater and more varied than residents within the Windsor Program, there is much more involved with getting each of the four years ‘on their way’. As October draws nearer, most of these issues should be behind us and the learning journey will unfold as anticipated; until then however, much effort is associated with administrative logistics. But not to fear: we have an exceptional team tending to these matters.

Welcome to the new members of the Schulich Medicine - Windsor Program community. This includes faculty members, who have come on stream during the summer months, as well as our incoming learners and our newest cadre of Family Medicine and Psychiatry residents and the Medicine Class of 2019. We are absolutely delighted to have you join our medical education family.

Just as the seasons bring about change, medical education too is a dynamic environment, which can be very stimulating, but often scary at the same time. This not only applies to the curriculum but also for how the curriculum is supported and delivered. In that context, we sometimes welcome new contributors to our team while other times we must say farewell to familiar faces since roles and personnel can change. Such is the case with Dr. Mark Awuku and his stepping aside this past month as Assistant Dean, Faculty and Governmental Affairs at the Windsor Program.

I first met Dr. Awuku when I came to Windsor as part of my interview/selection process. Immediately, I was struck by how warm and welcoming he was. I have frequently heard how his patients love him, our learners love him and the staff love him; this is such an accurate description and I do not think people are overstating their emotional connection to this remarkable individual. One cannot help but feel anything but close to Dr. Awuku; I don’t think I’ve ever met such a respectful individual.

I would go on to ‘learn the ropes’ under Dr. Awuku’s mentorship, where he always showed a great deal of patience as I struggled to connect all the dots of this complex puzzle we know as the Windsor Program.

I always felt as though I could take chances because Dr. Awuku was there to bail me out if needed. He was always such a brilliant diplomat yet he would not shy away from those difficult tasks that required ‘crucial conversations’. On so many occasions he propped up the Program and stepped in to cover a lecture, a small group tutorial or become a mentor to learners and faculty alike whenever it was required. He never turned away an urgent request and he epitomizes the ideal medical educator. Sincerely caring for his students and going the extra mile to ensure that they understand the concepts being taught, Dr. Awuku is always positive in his focus and his smile brightens any room into which he walks.

Suffice to say that Dr. Awuku has played many critical roles at Schulich Medicine and we all owe him so much. He agreed to accept a most difficult assignment at a very challenging time for the Windsor Program and became the acting Associate Dean. Even though he agreed to assume this role for a three month period, he understood why it was of paramount importance that the Windsor Program have this leadership position filled: his three month term ultimately lasted more than a year and a half.

Tireless, generous, a team player’s team player: Dr. Mark Awuku is the real deal and we have benefitted in so many ways because of his numerous and extensive contributions.

Finding the right words to do justice to his contributions is difficult. No doubt these brief descriptions fall woefully short in describing what Dr. Awuku has brought to Schulich Medicine during the past decade and beyond.

I can tell you this: I am enriched because of his efforts, his mentorship and his friendship. He will leave very large shoes to fill as our Assistant Dean. Luckily for us, he will continue to contribute, albeit at a reduced pace.

I invite you to let Dr. Awuku know how he has had an impact on you. And while you are doing that, be sure to stop by and greet the special statue that will commemorate Dr. Awuku’s contributions and which will serve as a reminder of the privilege we have when we engage as medical educators. Yes, the seasons will change, but Dr. Awuku’s spirit, that has established the foundation upon which we build a Windsor Program culture, will live on.

Bravo Dr. Awuku and thank you so much.

In closing, I would like to draw your attention to a faculty leadership opportunity at the Windsor Program.

We are currentlly accepting submissions for Assistant Dean, Windsor Faculty Affairs. The deadline for submission is September 25, 2015 at 5:00pm.

Gerry Cooper, EdD
Associate Dean, Windsor Program