Dr. Ian McWhinney Lecture Series

Each fall the Department of Family Medicine of Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University hosts the Ian McWhinney Lecture in memory of the founding chair of the Department and one of the leading thinkers in the discipline of Family Medicine.

As the founder of one of the first departments of family medicine in Canada Ian McWhinney introduced the idea that family/general practice was a distinct discipline within medicine. He articulated the philosophy and principles of the new discipline and oversaw the establishment of teaching programs at the undergraduate, postgraduate and graduate level. He led a team of individuals that developed the Patient Centered Clinical Method which is used in clinical practice, teaching, and research around the world. The research enterprise that he established helped to provide the knowledge base of Family Medicine.

Major themes of his writings included the central importance of the patient-physician relationship, the subjective experience of illness, the importance of physician self-knowledge, the meaning of illness and suffering, the influence of family in sickness and recovery, home visits, palliative care, and the theoretical foundations of the discipline of family medicine. In all of this, he taught that the patient is to be treated as an individual – a whole person. He advocated careful clinical observations over time as a research theme in family medicine and was an early adopter of qualitative methodology in research. His precise thinking and wide knowledge made him one of the major intellectual lights in the discipline.

Ian McWhinney was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2006 and received honorary degrees from the University of Oslo (1991), and Western University (2000). He was appointed as an Officer in the Order of Canada in 2000 and received many other honours.

The Ian McWhinney Lecturer should be an individual of national/international reputation who is recognized for their contribution to Family Medicine and whose work is reflective of the principles and values articulated by Dr. McWhinney.

The Ian McWhinney Lectures keep viable the deep insights and wisdom of a remarkable physician, philosopher, researcher, educator and writer and will continue to bring global recognition to the Department of Family Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Western University.

The Ian McWhinney Lectures are supported by an endowment established by the Department of Family Medicine. They are delivered at the McWhinney Lecture Hall in the Western Centre for Public Health and Family Medicine at Western University and is published in the Canadian Family Physician Medical  Journal. The lecturer receives an appropriate commemorative gift and their name will be added to a display in the Lecture Hall.

Principles of Family Medicine

 (From: McWhinney I. R., 1997. A Textbook of Family Medicine, Oxford University Press, New York)
In describing family medicine, it is best to start with the principles that govern our actions. I will describe nine of them. None is unique to family medicine. Not all family physicians exemplify all nine. Nevertheless, when taken together, they do represent a distinctive worldview, a system of values and an approach to problems, that is identifiably different from that of other disciplines.

  1. Family physicians are committed to the person rather than to a particular body of knowledge, group of diseases, or special technique.
  2. The family physician seeks to understand the context of the illness.
  3. The family physician sees every contact with his patients as an opportunity for prevention or health education.
  4. The family physician views his or her practice as a "population at risk".
  5. The family physician sees himself or herself as part of a community-wide network of supportive and health care agencies.
  6. Ideally, family physicians should share the same habitat as their patients.
  7. The family physician sees patients in their homes.
  8. The family physician attaches importance to the subjective aspects of medicine.
  9. The family physician is a manager of resources.