Regional Mentor of the Year Award: Recipients
2018 Award Winners
Region 1 Dr. Simon Holland, FRCSC, Vancouver
This past summer, Dr. Simon Holland performed a cornea transplant on a Syrian refugee who was almost completely blind due to a genetic condition. The case came to Dr. Holland as he is one of Canada’s foremost experts in this high-pressure, incredibly precise surgery. When the patient’s bandage was removed the day after the surgery, Dr. Holland held up two fingers. “Two,” the patient said. Gasps of relief and joy spread throughout the room. Today, that patient is navigating his new home, using maps and street signs. “When he came in, he was being led in; and a month later, he is reading,” says Dr. Holland. He doesn’t want to say that moments like this make him proud, he prefers the terms “satisfied, grateful.”
A clinical professor at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Department of Ophthalmology, Dr. Holland is one of the world’s leading experts in cornea, cataract and refractive eye disorders. He’s trained eye doctors around the world through the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, and leads residency rotations in rural Fort St. John, B.C. “It’s very rewarding to see how well they do. They’re so smart now, this new generation, no matter where they come from. They just need opportunities and a bit of training and they’re on their way,” he says.
Despite the training and support he’s provided, Dr. Holland says it baffles him whenever a young doctor comes to him and thanks him for his inspiration. “I don’t think I really did anything. I probably didn’t,” he laughs.
Dr. Colten Wendel, an ophthalmology resident at UBC, would disagree. Dr. Holland has spent hours with Dr. Wendel, discussing complicated cases over coffee and giving his advice over the phone. One time, Dr. Holland postponed a flight so he could help Dr. Wendel’s colleague with an emergency operation. “He is one of the kindest, most knowledgeable staff physicians I have ever known,” says Dr. Wendel.
Dr. Murad Alobthani, a current fellow in Dr. Holland’s department, says Dr. Holland isn’t sought out just for his vast expertise, but also for his calming presence and emotional support. When a complication occurred while Dr. Alobthani was performing surgery, Dr. Holland helped him regain his focus and react appropriately. Afterward, Dr. Holland spent an hour sitting with him, reminding him complications happen and reassuring him he had what it takes.
When things don’t go as planned, “a lot of us don’t want to get involved,” says Dr. Holland. “But that’s when people need the most support.” Dr. Holland says his own mentors have motivated him to pay the mentorship forward. “I’ve been very fortunate in my own career to have great mentors, great opportunities and a lot of luck.”
Region 2 Dr. Eugene Marcoux, FRCPC, Saskatoon
Dr. Gene Marcoux, a professor of Psychiatry at the University of Saskatoon and a consultant psychiatrist for several rural health centres, is not afraid of challenges. The second-oldest of seven children, he has adopted five kids, trained medics in Cambodian refugee camps, and mentored hundreds of young psychiatrists, medical students and family physicians. He says a teacher is “someone who, when they learn something, they’re compulsively driven to show it to someone else.” Dr. Marcoux is the definition of a teacher.
During his highly engaging, interactive lessons, Dr. Marcoux will frequently invite his trainees to take over the whiteboard marker. His favourite question is, “What did you learn?”
Dr. Marilyn Baetz, head of the Department of Psychiatry for Saskatoon Health Region and the College of Medicine, says that Dr. Marcoux’s “superb clinical teaching” has inspired many to enter Psychiatry and practice in the province, leading to “a major boost to our department.”
Dr. Timothy Ehmann, a child and youth psychiatrist in Saskatoon, remembers Dr. Marcoux asking him numerous questions, “enabling my opportunity to demonstrate what knowledge I then had.” When Dr. Ehmann responded with a blank look, “it only served to increase his ardour for my education.”
Letting trainees “squirm” for a moment before rescuing them is a tactic the one-time swimming instructor embraces. “I want to push young doctors to the limits of what they know and ask a question just beyond their knowledge base,” says Dr. Marcoux.
Beyond a generation of young psychiatrists in Saskatchewan, a number of family doctors have benefitted from Dr. Marcoux’s infectious love of both learning and sharing lessons. For 10 years, he ran a monthly teaching session for family physicians to discuss difficult cases. His motivation was the province’s long Psychiatry waitlist and his realization that “we’ll never have enough psychiatrists.” By training family physicians to expand their provision of psychiatric care, he realized he could reduce the need for referrals in the first place. “Those physicians we worked with, they have become superb. They rarely send a consult to me and, when they do, it’s high-end questions they give me,” says Dr. Marcoux.
In his commitment to improving access, Dr. Marcoux also co-led the establishment of a Rapid Assessment Clinic in Saskatoon, which launched in 2017. The clinic ensures patients who present at the emergency department with a psychiatric disorder are provided care within two weeks, in the hope of establishing ongoing support and preventing future emergency episodes.
As Dr. Yanbo Zhang, a psychiatrist at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon and one of Dr. Marcoux’s many protégés, says “Dr. Marcoux is a great leader who demonstrates an above and beyond social conscience for patient care, resource allocation and social justice.”
Region 3 Dr. Joel Ray, FRCPC, Toronto
A few years ago, Dr. Joel Ray was following up with a mother at St. Michael’s Hospital who was recovering from a massive seizure brought on by her pregnancy. She asked Dr. Ray what the chances were that she’d have another seizure, now that her baby was born. He couldn’t give her an answer, so he talked to a fellow MD, Dr. Kara Nerenberg, about doing a study together.
While lead authorship typically defaults to the more senior doctor (in this case, Dr. Ray) he encouraged Dr. Nerenberg to lead the research. “He shared his time, expertise and financial support to ensure the successful completion of this study,” she says. Because of the study, women who have had a seizure during pregnancy now know they’re at a higher risk of having another one, though the overall risk remains very low.
This anecdote epitomizes how Dr. Ray routinely steps back to champion the growth of junior doctors. Dr. Eyal Cohen, a researcher and pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, recalls that even though Dr. Ray was “not even named as a senior author on much of the work,” he spent countless hours advising him.
In the last two decades, Dr. Ray has contributed to dozens of studies that show how pregnancy complications, like pre-term birth and preeclampsia, can predict cardiovascular disease in mothers, years down the road. “A woman’s first vascular event often happens with her placenta, not with her own heart,” he explains. It’s an incredible concept: that pregnancy can provide a warning sign for a woman’s future health. Obstetricians and family physicians are now increasingly collaborating to identify women with severe pregnancy complications who need to lower their blood pressure and lose weight after delivery.
Dr. Ray’s outside-the-box thinking has dramatically impacted the health of mothers and babies. This is evident from his early work lobbying for the supplementation of food with folic acid to his current research showing standard birthweight charts aren’t appropriate for many non-European ethnicities.
Fortunately, Dr. Ray has passed on the same determination and curiosity to the next generation. “He will never make a trainee or colleague feel that their question is in any way unimportant,” says Dr. Howard Berger, an associate scientist and colleague at St. Michael’s Hospital. “He will correct respectfully, challenge appropriately and always provide a response, even if the response is ‘I don’t know.’ When that happens, the real teaching begins, as now he and the trainee or colleague will embark on a tireless search for the answer.”
Region 4 Dr. Olivier Jamoulle, FRCPC, Montreal
Several years ago, Dr. Olivier Jamoulle noticed that first-year residents were coming to his office complaining that they felt in over their heads. They’d gone from learning about medicine, mostly in classrooms, to treating actual patients. “It’s a huge step,” he says, and some felt overwhelmed. Over the next few years he created a month-long “immersion” program to help residents with this transition. In the crash course, they learn everything from how the hospital’s electronic system works to which specialists they can call for help. “We answer questions like, ‘How do I work with all the professionals in the hospital?’ and ‘How do I request a radiology exam?’” Dr. Jamoulle explains. An evaluation of the program has shown that residents are far more confident after the four-week program.
In addition to creating the immersion internship, Dr. Jamoulle redesigned the teaching curriculum, introduced a number of inter-professional health communication projects and guided the education of around 80 residents as the pediatrics residency program director at the University of Montreal from 2010 to 2017. Among those projects is a medical communication wheel: an interactive, colour-coded tool that helps young doctors learn about a number of communication scenarios, including breaking bad news to a developmentally delayed adolescent and discussing substance abuse issues to a walk-in patient.
Dr. Jamoulle is well-loved by students and residents for the interest he takes in their growth and future careers, and his willingness to find solutions to the barriers they face. “Despite a busy schedule, his steadfastness and patience in the support of each of his protégés, and his ability to listen reveal his exceptional qualities as a mentor,” says Dr. Catherine Hervouet-Zeiber, the current director of pediatric residency programs at the University of Montreal. “He offers honest and constructive opinions, without dictating, offering his support while encouraging the independence of the learner.”
In his clinical practice, Dr. Jamoulle focuses on complex adolescent health issues, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and eating disorders. “Those patients, especially, need a doctor listening to them and being patient with them,” he says. “It’s sometimes very challenging, it’s a long process. It’s small steps, one after the other… but it’s so rewarding when they come back at 18 or 20 completely healed from the eating disorder.”
In addition to being inspired by his colleagues, many of whom Dr. Jamoulle says could have received this Mentor of the Year award, he says his students motivate him. Through their questions and their enthusiasm, they inspire to keep up with the recent literature and technological advances. “Young doctors are so good now. It’s so refreshing to work with a student or a resident, they push you to be as good as possible,” he says.
Region 5 Dr. Stephen Beed, FRCPC, Halifax
In the early 2000s, Dr. Stephen Beed, then the head of Critical Care Services at Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, faced a significant problem. There weren’t enough specialists to cover the centre’s two ICUs in Halifax. Evidence shows specialists tend to practise close to their training grounds and, at the time, Dr. Beed recalls, “there was no training program east of Montreal.”
So Dr. Beed and his colleagues spent the next three years building the scaffolding of an academic program, designing curriculum, training the teachers, and getting buy-in from health workers and administrators. Since 2007, more than 15 intensivists have been trained in Dalhousie University’s critical care fellowship, going on to work in ICUs not just in Nova Scotia, but in neighbouring provinces. “We’ve changed the landscape of critical care in the Atlantic region,” says Dr. Beed.
Dr. Beed’s ability to get everyone moving in the same direction was also instrumental when he and others established the province’s first organ donation program, for which he’s served as medical director since 2006. Dr. Beed understands how overwhelming the conversations are for donor families, and he’s overseen a highly successful model that ensures families have the conversations with experts who know the importance of being present. “Time is underappreciated,” says Dr. Beed. “You need to be careful about how much information you expect families to absorb.” Aspects of the model have been presented around the world and incorporated into many programs across Canada.
Dr. Beed’s ability to put himself in patients’ shoes – and to encourage his trainees and colleagues to do the same – is echoed in many of his nomination letters. What also stands out is how he’s shaped a generation of leaders. Dr. Ward Patrick, senior medical director for the provincial critical care program, frequently reminds himself of Dr. Beed’s leadership truisms. Among them: “you may be right, you may even be righteous, but what you really want to be is effective.”
It’s a lesson one of Dr. Beed’s mentors shared with him, after he upset a senior colleague in a meeting early on his career. “I learned it because I completely screwed up,” he laughs. What does being effective involve? As Dr. Beed describes it, you compromise, you recognize that your own lens is skewed and “you talk to more people that you think you need to.”
It’s Dr. Beed’s humility and ability to incorporate a multitude of perspectives that have contributed to critical care training and organ donation programs that have saved countless lives in Nova Scotia, and have garnered attention around the world.
- Dr. Michael Giuffre, FRCPC, MBA - Calgary
- Dr. Allan Ross Ronald, FRCPC - Winnipeg
- Dr. Sherif El-Defrawy, FRCSC, PhD - Toronto
- Dr. Donald Sheppard, FRCPC, FECMM, FACHS - Montreal
- Dr. Sonia D. Sampson, FRCPC, BMLSc - St. John's
- Dr. Aleem Bharwani, MPP, FRCPC - Calgary
- Dr. Margaret Burnett, CCFP, FRCSC, FACOG - Winnipeg
- Dr. Michael G. Fehlings, PhD, FRCSC, FACS - Toronto
- Dre Christiane Bertelli, FRCPC - Montreal
- Dr. Michael F. Murphy, MD, FRCPC – Edmonton
- Dr. William P. Fleisher, MD, FRCPC - Winnipeg
- Dr. Dafna D. Gladman, MD, FRCPC – Toronto
- Dr. Pierre J. Durand, MD, FRCPC - Quebec
- Dr. Angus Hartery, MD, FRCPC - St. John’s