Appointment Definitions

Clinical Fellows (CF)

Clinical Fellows are those trainees enrolled in specialty or sub-specialty programs who are gaining an educational experience beyond specialist certification requirements. Training taken during a Fellowship does not count towards RCPSC or CFPC certification. Clinical Fellows may have a research component to their appointment but will always be considered to be a Clinical Fellowship if there is clinical activity. All Clinical Fellowships are processed through the Postgraduate Medical Education Office (PGME). 

Research Fellows (RF)

Research Fellows hold an MD or equivalent and have no clinical function. They do not hold licensure and participate in research activities exclusively. Research Fellows’ appointments will never have a clinical component. All Research Fellowships are processed through PGME.

Residents (PGY1 - PGY8)

Residents are completing postgraduate training leading towards specialist certification through either the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada or the College of Family Physicians of Canada. This group includes all residents completing primary and sub-specialty training, regardless of training level and funding source. Residents are commonly known as PGY1 to PGY8. All residency academic appointments are processed through PGME. Please note that some programs and residents enrolled in subspecialty training programs and/or training at senior residency levels may refer to this group as ‘Fellows’. However, these trainees remain residents (PGY1 up to PGY8) for official registration and certification purposes.


Elective trainees are Residents or Fellows who are registered in an accredited training program at a University other than Western. They can come from within Ontario, outside the province, or from international schools.  They undertake an elective rotation at Western to complete a portion of their training and explore different avenues of medicine. The elective must be approved by their home university program director as well as the appropriate local program director. All university and hospital registration requirements must be complete prior to commencement of the elective. All visiting elective academic appointments are processed through the PGME Office. For more information on the process please visit our Electives information page.


An Observer is an individual attending the organization for the specific purpose of gaining knowledge and expertise about health care and/or the functioning of the organization. An Observer may be:

• Medical professionals from other hospitals
• Nursing professionals from other hospitals
• Allied health professionals from other hospitals
• Other individuals not affiliated with the organization

Observers are offered an opportunity to attend at the organization to gain knowledge and expertise about health care and/or the functioning of the organization. This may involve the opportunity to observe specific procedures and/or patient care processes. Observerships are processed through Medical Affairs. These individuals do not hold any type of registration with the PGME Office.

Postdoctoral Fellows and Postdoctoral Associates

These students may be medical doctors but an MD is not a requirement. The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies manages the appointments for Postdoctoral Fellows. These individuals do not hold any type of registration with the PGME Office.
The University defines a Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF) or Postdoctoral Associate (PDA) as an individual who meets the following criteria:

•    the individual completed his or her doctoral degree within three years of the appointment;
•    the appointment is time limited, for a period of up to four years, with the possibility of a one-year renewal (for a maximum of five years);
•    the appointment is viewed as preparatory for a full-time academic or research career;
•    the appointment involves full-time research and scholarship;
•    the individual will work under the supervision of a faculty mentor and often as part of a larger research team; and,
•    the individual is encouraged and expected to publish the results of his or her independent research during the period of the appointment.
•    Please visit Western Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for more information.