Department Spotlight: Dr. Susan McNair

Dr. Susan McNair is a Staff Physician at the St. Joseph's Family Medical Centre and the Medical Director of the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre at St Joseph’s Hospital. She also provides palliative care at University Hospital and sees patients in their homes, as well as patients in long term care.

1.Where were you born and raised?

Right here in London.

2.What degree(s) do you have, and from what where?

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Western University

Doctor of Medicine from University of Toronto

Masters in Clinical Science in Family Medicine from here at Western University

3.Where do you practice medicine and in what scope?

Staff Physician at the St. Joseph’s Family Medical Centre (SJFMC) and Medical Director of the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre at St Joseph’s Hospital. I provide palliative care at University Hospital, and see patients in their homes, and have patients in long term care, as well. I did intrapartum care for many years after coming into practice and served as an Ontario Provincial Coroner at one point.

4.Why did you choose to pursue teaching at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry?

I was excited from the start to spread my enthusiasm for family medicine to learners. I also learned early that through teaching I would continue to learn myself. And it has been true! When I came into the department I was hired both to work at the SJFMC but also assumed a large administrative role in the department as assistant program director and as the cordinator to start up the Rural Regional Program.  I was very involved in that program development for many years. Assisting learners and practices commence their training and teaching outside of London was very satisfying.

5.What inspires you in your work?

There are many sources of inspiration. I love the challenge of the medicine itself and love the ease of technology in making knowledge more accessible to us.  But teaching residents is my greatest passion. I love their stage of learning and being part of their transition to independent practice. And I think as my career progresses my own self knowledge and self reflection has allowed a richness to my experience of caring and understanding that is immensely satisfying as I offer direct patient care. I am constantly awed by the capacity of the human spirit to survive and overcome adversity.

6. Tell me about your current research projects.

I recently completed a study on genital trauma in victims of acute sexual assault. The results shed light on the need for a common definition of genital trauma amongst researchers and clinicians, particularly as it relates to our work in the court system providing expert witness. 

I have another project at the ethics level looking at teaching family medicine residents about examining and understanding the pediatric genitalia.

7. What motivates you in doing this work? Why did you pursue this area of research?

I realized early on that the care of victims of violence, particularly sexual and interpersonal violence, confronts every discipline in medicine on a daily basis. However, it was not embraced and studied in detail by any particular discipline. Yet I saw many patients facing such trauma. So I went off and received training in adult and pediatric acute forensic and medical care in California and Virginia and came back to spread that knowledge to others as the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre grew at St Joseph’s. There is now a well developed system of care of such victims within the province and so I am able to practice within a larger network of other examiners and researchers.

8.What has been your greatest experience to date in your career as a faculty member?

I enjoy those moments where I see a second year resident mastering both the science and the art of family medicine, and in the process seeing his or her excitement for the discipline of family medicine and readiness to practice. I feel privileged to be a part of that process.

I am also privileged to be able to take what I have learned in my clinical forensic work and make it relevant for teaching in the family medicine setting….how to talk to patients in crisis, the role of trauma in the many complex presentations we see in the office, how to do better gyne and pediatric exams, how to document findings from a medicolegal perspective, and on and on.

9.What do you do when you aren’t working?

Well I have a busy family…, a wonderful husband Edward, and two daughters, Maggie, age 17, and Clara, age 13. The girls are busy with swimming and ballet. Maggie swims for Team Canada and so the last decade has been spent at swim meets when not at work! The great part is that the meets have taken us to some wonderful parts of the world so the time has been well spent together as a family. Ed and Maggie and Clara are the centre of my life, and when I am not at work I want nothing more than to be at arms reach of them all.

10.What special interests or hobbies do you have?

I love to travel. I love to sew and crotchet. And I love to cook and bake and entertain. I am an avid royal watcher, and watch many renovation shows while doing my EMR and office work in the evening. My greatest peace is when I am walking along the sandy beach with our girls at our cottage on Amberley Beach south of Kincardine.