Award: Dr. Jane Thornton recognized with the College of Family Physicians of Canada Family Medicine Resident Leadership Award


Tell me a bit about yourself.

I am a resident physician, researcher and advocate for physical activity for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. I received my medical degree through the University of Toronto and I have a PhD in kinesiology and sports medicine from Western. I love the sport of rowing, having competed on the national rowing team for a decade and participating in the 2008 Olympics. And last but not least, I am married with one child and another on the way!

Where were you born and raised?

Fredericton, NB.

Where do you practice medicine and in what scope?

I am a resident physician in family medicine with my home site at St Joseph’s Family Medical and Dental Centre, and will be beginning a sport medicine fellowship at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic in a few months.

What are your research interests?

Physical activity for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, injury prevention and management, health policy and systems, and women’s health.

Why did you choose to pursue Postgraduate degree in the Department of Family Medicine at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry?

I was drawn to the flexibility of the program in the sense that I know where I’m headed; coming into medicine after years of sport and research has allowed me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses, and how to tailor the program to fit that. I was familiar with London and have a strong support network here, having lived here for several years as I trained with the university and national rowing teams while completing my studies at Western prior to medicine. I knew in advance that it had the potential to be a great program.

Can you tell me about your experience in the program?

I feel fortunate to have had great mentorship throughout much of my training. There are a few who have really challenged my thinking and helped me understand medicine in a practical way that I hadn’t before. It is a program that sets you up well to practice independently and I am grateful to have been able to keep up my research and advocacy during my clinical training - each one really feeds into the other.

What has been your greatest challenge?

Balancing residency training with family life, friends, research projects, and sport can be challenging; however, it is by choice that I have tried to keep up my various interests and I think it is well worth it.

What has been your greatest experience to date in your study/practice/ research?

I love the time I get to interact with patients and consider it one of the highest privileges one can experience. Some of the more rewarding research and advocacy work I have been a part of is to lead a national strategy on physical activity in the undergraduate medical curriculum, and create and curate resources for both patients and physicians on the topic. I am also involved in a few international research collaborations which add another rich dimension to my professional life.  

What inspires you in your work?

My patients, my mother. She was terminally ill and had been seen by dozens of doctors by the time I was entering medical school. She wrote me a list of attributes of the good doctors she had seen, and gave it to me before she died.  It included things like excellent communication skills, transparency, honesty, patient-centredness. I hang on to those principles every day and try to treat each patient like I would have liked my own mother to be cared for. We will all be patients at some point, so it’s vitally important that as a clinician, I remember to be completely present with the person I am with at that moment.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I intend to have a career within academic sports medicine. A tenure-track position to teach and conduct research in a university setting would be ideal, along with the opportunity to work with athletes and Olympic sports teams.

What special interests or hobbies do you have?

I still enjoy rowing and racing, and other than that, being active outdoors is my favourite place to be. Learning languages has always been a fun hobby and has served me well in the various countries I have lived in. I used to love drawing too and am slowly getting back into it with my 2 year old son!

What three words best describe you?

I have three words I use as my personal philosophy: Allow for excellence – this means seeing the potential in my children, patients, teammates and students, and allowing this to unfold in a supportive environment. The best coaches and preceptors do this almost unconsciously – they create an environment where athletes and trainees can truly shine; everyone benefits as a result.