Chair's Message

The nights are getting cooler, and the colour of the leaves is changing – fall is definitely here! September and October are always such a busy time for the Department of Family Medicine, and the medical school in general. The 1st and 2nd year students return to campus, the 4th years start to get into CaRMS mode, and the residents who started at our family medical centres in July are getting ready to go off to their off-service rotations while a new cohort looks forward to starting at their home family medical centre.

At the end of August, I had the opportunity to participate in the medical school’s White Coat Ceremony as a cloaker. This is a celebratory ceremony where all the incoming medical students receive a white coat as a symbol of entering their journey to become a physician. It had been 25 years since my own White Coat Ceremony and the experience brought back many memories and remembering the feeling of excitement and trepidation all at the same time. This year, Schulich welcomed a record 190 students into the MD program between the London and Windsor campuses. white-coat.png


September also brings the annual McWhinney Lecture. This lecture is held in memory of the founding chair of the Department and one of the leading thinkers in the discipline of Family Medicine, Dr. Ian McWhinney. For 2023 we were so very pleased to welcome Dr. Iona Health as our lecturer. Dr. Heath was originally scheduled to be our 2020 speaker, however due to the pandemic, and declining to present the lecture virtually, was finally able to travel from London, England for this year’s event. With over 100 people attending in-person and an equal number joining virtually, she led us through an intellectually stimulating and inspiring address. Her lecture, titled Quality of Mind, explored Dr. McWhinney’s writings and several dialectics that are present in his work including theory and practice, science and philosophy, map and territory, thinking and feeling, and responsibility and guilt. New for this year’s McWhinney Day was the opportunity for Dr. Heath to participate in a panel discussion with the first-year medical school class. Joined by Dr. Allison Henderson (London) and Dr. Jennifer Bondy (Windsor), the one-hour discussion on the rewards, challenges, and impact these three physicians have had caring for a wide variety of marginalized and equity deserving populations. As the moderator, I was in awe of the amazing stories about social accountability these three women shared with our newest Schulich students.

Another exciting event that occurred in September was the opportunity to meet with the Honourable Gudie Hutchings, Federal Minister of Rural Economic Development. As a part of the Federal Liberal Caucus retreat, several Schulich representatives attended a 45-minute meeting with Minister Hutchings on September 12 to discuss our rural/regional medicine program, ideas to support students and residents to choose rural medicine as a career, and barriers to practicing outside of large urban centres. Attendees included me, Dr. John Yoo, Felix Harmos (Associate Director, Distributed Medical Education & Regional Strategy), 2nd year residents – Drs. Melissa Chopcian, Anthony Ziccarelli, Zach Weiss, and 3rd year medical students Taylor McCann and Aaron Lewis.

One of the more recent items that you may have seen or heard on the news or in your social media feed, is discussion about the College of Family Physicians of Canada Outcomes of Training Project (OTP). This project, which will see the CFPC change accreditation standards to require a 3-year family medicine residency has recently come under significant criticism. Some of the information I have seen is inaccurate, incorrect, and mis-leading. There is no doubt there are many questions and lots of work to do to create a 3-year curriculum that supports producing comprehensive and confident family physicians. One thing we do know is that expanding the curriculum will not mean “more of the same” for trainees. Evolving to a more progressive and innovative curriculum to include more opportunities to learn procedural skills, further develop competencies in areas past residents have identified as lacking, and to provide better transition to practice support are only a few of the ideas for our revised curriculum. At Western, like all schools across the country, we have an Education Design Team who has been examining our current curriculum, identifying gaps and opportunities to enhance our residents’ education and experience. In the coming month, site visits are occurring to meet with our core rural/regional site faculty to discuss OTP, including their ideas and concerns about the upcoming changes. At this point, the earliest that some residents may start in a 3-year curriculum is 2027. I welcome any questions you have regarding OTP and am committed to sharing any and all information we have from the CFPC as we move towards this change. Please send any questions to and I will do my best to answer them in upcoming newsletters.

And as always - thank you for the work you are doing for your patients, our students and residents, and our system. Stay safe and best personal wishes until our next newsletter.