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Recognizing our volunteers

Our amazing volunteers dedicate their time and expertise to improve health care

We extend our heartfelt thanks to the almost 3,000 volunteers who contribute to the community of specialty medicine each year by participating in the work of the Royal College. We couldn’t do this work without all of you!

Meet a handful of our dedicated volunteers who generously give their time and expertise. They are an integral part of the work we are able to do together.

Meet Dr. Jordan Tarshis, FRCPC

Dr. Jordan Tarshis
Dr. Jordan Tarshis with a mannequin in the Sunnybrook Canadian Simulation Centre

Read why he is proud to contribute to an ever-improving quality of care

Jordan Tarshis, MD, FRCPC, is an anesthesiologist with a strong academic bent and a particular interest in simulation training. He is an associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Anesthesia and director of the Sunnybrook Canadian Simulation Centre at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Jordan began to volunteer for the Royal College in 2007 by participating on the Anesthesiology Examination Board. He was struck almost immediately by the complexity of the work. “I learned that writing, editing and marking questions is just a fraction of what Royal College exams are about. Examiners must consider the psychometrics of an exam, reference cohorts, the logistics of getting the right people into the right place at the right time, and so much more.”

Jordan’s work as an examiner also opened his eyes to the many activities the Royal College is involved in aside from exams. “Education, assessment, promotion of excellence, continuous learning, standard setting, curriculum design, accreditation and many other activities began to frame my perspective of the Royal College.”

Pride in contributing to an ever-improving quality of care
This broader perspective led to more volunteerism. Jordan’s academic interest in simulation for both education and assessment coincided with the Royal College’s exploration of this modality. He has attended all Royal College Simulation Summits and has been a member of the Royal College Simulation Accreditation Committee since its inception in 2016; that committee is responsible for accrediting simulation programs in Canada and internationally. “I’ve been part of the group that helps promote and celebrate the highest quality of simulation-based education.”

Jordan explains that his abiding motivation to volunteer with the Royal College is to make things “better” – in other words, to commit to a lifelong exercise in quality improvement.

“I have always believed that almost all problems can be helped by a sufficient number of smart, motivated people working together. The Royal College is a facilitator of these kinds of people; problems are considered, solutions proposed, implemented, studied and then modified.”

Jordan hopes that by improving the system, promoting and upholding high standards and teaching other educators, he can contribute to an ever-improving quality of care in Canada – not only in his own specialty of anesthesia, but also across health care education.

Meet Dr. Connie Switzer, FRCPC

Dr. Connie Switzer
Dr. Connie Switzer, FRCPC

Find out what she thinks is the most important aspect of volunteering

Long-time Royal College volunteer Dr. Connie Switzer, FRCPC, is clinical professor in the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. She is also a consultant gastroenterologist at the Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton and site leader for gastroenterologists at the hospital.

Connie joined the Royal College’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Accreditation Committee, chairing the Maintenance of Certification sub-committee for nearly two decades. For 12 years, she also brought her expertise to the Royal College’s Gastroenterology Examination Board, serving as the chief examiner for four of those years.

Connie says the most important aspect of volunteering with the Royal College has been the satisfaction of knowing her work has helped improve patient care. “The work I did on both the examination committee and the CPD accreditation committee led to progressively better-defined standards of care and education.”

A powerful experience
More specifically, Connie oversaw the redevelopment and modernization of the Gastroenterology exam, advanced the Royal College exam development system’s grid and led a redevelopment of the OSCE exam. She also led the team that prepared the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology’s (CAG) applications for Royal College accredited CPD provider status.

All this has led Connie to develop an abiding interest in how CPD works, how it is developed, why it is important and how its success can be evaluated. She says her CPD accreditation committee work has been a powerful experience, and has helped her advance the knowledge base and competence of the CAG as it relates to CPD development, evaluation and redirection.

“As chair of the CPD accreditation committee, it has been my privilege to work with the most committed group of individuals that have a combined passion and commitment to CPD that is compelling.” Connie also credits Royal College staff for their diligence in helping the committee move through its work with ease.

Areas of Focused Competence (AFC) Committee

Specialty Committee Chairs Workshop on November 26, 2018

Read more about how they are paving a path for more robust standards

Lucinda Whitman, MD, FRCPC, was the first to take on the inaugural challenge.
Transfusion Medicine was originally recognized as an Accreditation without Certification (AWC) discipline. This was in response to the 1997 Krever report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada, which aimed to improve the education of transfusion professionals in Canada. Dr. Whitman submitted an application to transition the discipline to an AFC-diploma on the basis that a competency-based AFC would provide flexibility in training for individuals entering from different specialty or subspecialty disciplines.

Over the next three years, Dr. Whitman served as chair of the working group tasked with defining the discipline and developing standards, and then as chair of the AFC Committee in Transfusion Medicine, which continues to oversee the implementation and maintenance of the national standards.

Others followed in Dr. Whitman’s footsteps. Early volunteers included Dr. Peter G. Guerra and Dr. Martin Green, who brought forward Adult Cardiac Electrophysiology; Dr. James Tam and Dr. Ian Burwash for Adult Echocardiography; and Dr. Donald Palisaitis for Adult Interventional Cardiology. Contributing to the success of these initial applications was Dr. Cathy Kells of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS) who played a key role in working with these applicants to align and coordinate the Cardiology-related applications.

Setting national standards in new categories
In 2011, the Royal College established the Areas of Focused Competence (AFC) diploma category to recognize disciplines that meet a legitimate societal need but do not meet the criteria of a specialty or subspecialty. AFC-diplomas are intended to provide national standards for training and patient care in these areas.

Scores of volunteers have been key to the implementation of this new category since the Royal College’s Committee on Specialties (COS) received its first AFC diploma application eight years ago.

Volunteers support critical activities associated with AFC-diplomas including

  • the review of applications by COS,
  • development of training standards and
  • the review of AFC-diploma portfolios.

Paving a path for more robust standards
To date, COS has recognised 24 AFC diplomas. Largely thanks to the efforts of Royal College volunteers, 18 of those disciplines are “live” with approved standards now maintained by the AFC committees and subcommittees. The remaining six are at the working group phase. Across the disciplines, there are 35 accredited training programs and AFC directors across the country.

Since AFC diploma recognition began, the Royal College estimates that well over 1,000 passionate, dedicated and committed volunteers have contributed to the AFC program. These volunteers have served as appointed members of discipline-specific committees or other Royal College committees such as the Specialty Standards Review Committee, the AFC-Accreditation Committee and COS. Many others have volunteered for individual roles such as accreditation surveyors or serve as one of the 107 volunteer portfolio assessors available to assess candidate portfolios arriving through the trainee or practice eligibility route (PER-AFC).

The Royal College recognizes the leadership and expertise of the many volunteers who, through their participation in the AFC program, have paved a path for more robust national standards and better quality of care for many Canadians.

Regional Advisory Committees (RAC)

Gain some insights into the influence and importance of RAC members

Meet Dr. Nicholas Monfries

Dr. Nicholas Monfries is a PGY-3 Emergency Medicine resident at the University of British Columbia. He serves as president of Resident Doctors of BC, as a director on Resident Doctors of Canada’s Board of Directors and as a member of the Doctors of BC Representative Assembly. He is the current Resident Representative with the Royal College’s Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) 1.

Nicholas says he was first drawn to volunteer with the Royal College as a way to deepen his understanding about the organization’s work, including the Royal College’s role beyond specialty certification exams. He has been impressed by the direct impact that his and his colleagues’ work has had on the practice of other Fellows. “I feel that the Royal College has been very receptive to working on learner-focused initiatives, and I have found the RAC to be a welcoming forum to discuss issues affecting physicians across all stages of training and practice.”

Meet Dr. Sivaruban Kanagaratnam, FRCSC

Dr. Sivaruban Kanagaratnam completed General Surgery training at the University of Saskatchewan. He followed this with a fellowship in Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at the University of Toronto. He then went to the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador for a one-month surgical locum, and stayed on for the next five years, becoming the chief of surgery during this time. He currently works as a locum general surgeon based out of Thompson, Manitoba.

When a colleague recommended that Sivaruban become involved with the Royal College’s Regional Advisory Committees (RAC), he embraced the chance to network with physicians in different specialties. “Such an opportunity is rare, as we tend to polarize towards our specialty-specific meetings.” Sivaruban advises physicians to stay in close contact with their RAC members, who can simplify challenges such as navigating Maintenance of Certification and Royal College grants and scholarships. “The Royal College is very receptive to its Fellows. RAC members are easily accessible and are one good way to get your voice or input heard.”

Meet Dr. Joanna Lazier, FRCPC, FCCMG

Dr. Joanna Lazier is a medical geneticist in the Regional Genetics Program at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, Ont. She is also an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and program director of the Medical Genetics and Genomics Residency Program.

In the five years since Joanna was “voluntold” to participate with the Royal College’s Fellowship Affairs Committee while still a resident, she has learned a great deal about the Royal College and medical education. Her volunteer experiences have opened her eyes to the Royal College’s commitment to taking direction from Fellows and adapting to meet their needs. “Through this work, I have met people whose lives are dedicated to excellence in lifelong learning.” Joanna has also been impressed by the Royal College’s breadth of work, including its international activities. “The high regard for the Royal College on the international stage has become a source of pride for me.”

Meet Dr. Renée Soucy, FRCSC

Dr. Renée Soucy is an obstetrician-gynecologist at the CISSS de la Gaspésie in Chandler, a city on the Gaspé Peninsula in the province of Quebec. After five years as an examiner for the Royal College’s Obstetrics and Gynecology examination, and wishing to continue her involvement with the Royal College, she became a volunteer with Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) 4. Dr. Soucy hopes her work will contribute to a continual improvement of residency programs and, in so doing, help shape the future of specialty medicine.

Dr. Soucy believes that her perspective as a female physician working in an outlying area adds an important voice to the discussion so that specialty medicine remains centered on easy access to quality care for all. “I would like to promote the value of the multi-faceted practice of physicians outside major centres — a practice I am passionate about, but for which one needs to be prepared.”

Dr. Soucy adds, “I appreciate the interesting, intelligent and implicated people I’ve encountered on the RAC committee. The discussions and different points of view help in the evolution of the thought process.”

Meet Dr. Bruce Cameron, FRCPC, CCPE

Dr. Bruce Cameron practises hematological pathology in Moncton, New Brunswick. He has served as chief of Pathology at Moncton’s Dr. Georges L. Dumont University Hospital Centre, as president of the New Brunswick Association of Laboratory Physicians, and as president of the Moncton and District Medical Society.

Today, Bruce is also director of Educational Needs Assessment for the Canadian Association of Pathologists where he is working to implement a robust self-assessment program. He believes that physicians need to demonstrate accountability and is confident that they will welcome self-assessment once they become used to the idea. He says his experience volunteering with Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) 5 has given him an opportunity to think fundamentally about topics that are normally obscured by the practicalities of daily life. “RAC meetings keep me up-to-date with current developments in medical education.” Bruce encourages Fellows to use their RAC representatives as resources.


Questions/comments: volunteers@royalcollege.ca.