Alumni Profile

Tell me a little about you 

My name is Kath Stringer, I am a family doctor and Chair of the Discipline of Family Medicine at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland, where I live with my husband and two daughters, age 17 and 19, two cats and a very loveable bulldog named Rosy.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in South Africa, and immigrated to Canada in 2002 with my family.

What degree do you have, and from what universities?

I received my medical degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa in 1994. I then wrote my Canadian exams after immigrating here to receive my full Canadian medical licensure in 2003 and my Certificate with the College of Family Physicians of Canada in 2004. I completed my Master Degree (MClSc – FM) at Western in 2017.

Where do you practice medicine and in what scope? What are your research interests?

I practiced full scope family practice including emergency medicine and obstetrics in many locations in South Africa and then in Gander before moving to St John’s Newfoundland.

Presently I practice at the Ross Family Medicine Clinic which is one of the academic clinics of the Discipline of Family Medicine at Memorial University. I continue to enjoy comprehensive family practice with an added special interest in the primary care of adults with Developmental Disabilities.

My research interests include the primary care of adults with developmental disabilities as well as medical education, particularly competency based medical education, rural medical education and interprofessional medical education.

What special interests or hobbies do you have?

I love the outdoors and particularly enjoy hiking along the East Coast Trail and other beautiful destinations across Newfoundland. Spending time with my family and friends at our little cabin is also a favourite pastime.

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

Thanks to the influence of a wonderful mentor here in St. John’s, I developed a keen interest in pursuing academia as a career, and was lucky enough to get a position in the Discipline of Family Medicine at Memorial in 2009. Soon after joining the team, I realized how much there was to learn in this new exciting field of medical education! I am first and foremost a family physician so when looking into my options for furthering my studies, I was drawn to this Master Degree at Western with its focus in Family Medicine.

Can you tell me about your experience in the program?

I went into this Master's experience, seeing it as a course I would complete and in doing so deepen my knowledge of academic family medicine. What I experienced however was so much more profound. I had no idea of the personal growth that would occur – from junior faculty member to academic leader.

I realized the power of a questioning mind particularly when combined with the skills to know how to seek out the answers to one’s questions.

When times were tough it forced me to dig deep and use every aspect of every ability I even thought I possibly had. It certainly taught me the benefits of teamwork and how and when to ask for help, but also when to give it to fellow graduate students in need.

I definitely became aware of my own potential, but equally it allowed me to be realistic about how much I could push myself…we all have our limits!

My research not only deepened my (and I hope others who read our publications) understanding of the patient physician relationship, but allowed me to experience the privilege of meeting such inspiring people. I was truly humbled by and grateful for the interaction with my participants. My supervisors were the most incredibly supportive mentors I could ever have hoped for… who took on double duty as counsellors when the pressures of graduate studies seemed overwhelming!!…. And ended up as good friends for whom I am so thankful.

What inspires you in your work?

My patients are my inspiration. I am so grateful for the privilege of being instantly catapulted into relationships with so many people through my role as family physician. My patients inspire me to research topics that will hopefully lead to better care. They also inspire me to develop new and better learning environments to guide the family physicians of tomorrow to provide the best care possible with and for their patients.

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

Every family physician has patients they connect with particularly well. My greatest experience has been that of a patient-physician relationship with an elderly couple who I looked after for many years until they passed away within 3 months of each other aged 95 and 97. Our relationship centered around a deep mutual respect that soon developed into a deep friendship. I will always remember them with great fondness and use them as my benchmark for the ideal patient-physician relationship.

What are your beliefs about Department of Family Medicine’s patient-centred care approach or education in healthcare through clinical excellence in general?

Our patients are the focus of our care and hence it is highly appropriate that they should be at the centre of education in health care. While family medicine is the leader of this approach and family physicians are specialists in patient-centred care, we need to ensure that we continue to seek input on, reflect and improve upon this approach within our own Discipline whilst simultaneously working on its adoption by all involved in health care and health care education. It needs to be introduced to students at the very beginning of medical school, not as an optional Family Medicine approach, but as a required approach for all physicians. I think we have made excellent progress, but have a ways to go until patient centred care becomes a universal approach, tailored to all health care professionals

What three words best describe you?

Pragmatic, fair, caring.