Charles Peter W. Warren History of Medicine Essay Prize: Recipients


Dr. Barbara Marzario

Dr. Barbara Marzario is a Dermatology resident at the University of Ottawa. She is the 2021 recipient of the Charles Peter W. Warren History of Medicine Essay Prize for her paper entitled “Visual Representations of Dermatology Classification Schemes and their Enduring Relevance to the Training of Canadian Dermatology Residents.” Barbara holds an Honours Bachelor of Science in Human Biology and Master of Arts in Art History from the University of Toronto. This project combines her academic and professional interests to explore connections between botany and dermatology, visual representations of dermatology classification schemes, and modern dermatology education.


Dr. Jasmine Mah

Jasmine Mah, M.D., is a medical resident at Dalhousie University. Jasmine is the 2020 recipient of the Charles Peter W. Warren History of Medicine Essay Prize, for her paper entitled “A Short History of Long Term Care in Nova Scotia”. The essay delves into the origins of long-term care in Nova Scotia and its evolution into the current model that stands today. Her presentation of insight offers readers a better understanding of contemporary problems for Nova Scotia’s aging population, and solutions to address the prevailing issues.

Dr. Hannah Burton, Psychiatry Resident at the University of British Columbia, is the runner-up for the 2020 Charles Peter W. Warren History of Medicine Essay Prize. Her essay entitled “The Introduction and Influence of Shock Therapies in Canadian Psychiatry” received notable praise from the Royal College History and Heritage Advisory Committee.


Dr. Roy Kazan

Winning paper: “The Evolution of Surgical Simulation: The Current State and Future Avenues for Plastic Surgery Education.” Dr. Kazan was lead author on this paper, which was published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (February 2017).

Dr. Kazan is a resident in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at McGill University. He completed his doctoral studies in Experimental Surgery at the Montreal General Hospital. During this time, he obtained the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation grant. He also received a Canadian Institutes of Health Research award. His research led to the development of the first breast augmentation simulator, under the supervision of Dr. Mirko Gilardino and Dr. Thomas Hemmerling. Dr. Kazan has presented his work to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons. His long-term goals are to practise in a university hospital and maintain a research academic career.


Dr. Malika Ladha

Dr. Malika Ladha is a Dermatology resident-physician at the University of Calgary. Malika is the 2018 recipient of the Charles Peter W. Warren History of Medicine Essay Prize, for her paper entitled “Pioneers in the Development of Canadian Plastic Surgery as a Specialty and Field of Education: Fulton Risdon, Stuart Gordon and Alfred Farmer.”

Dr. Ladha is currently working toward publication of her paper. We wish her all the best.


Dr. Alexander Dyck

Winning paper: “Patients, Politics and Psychiatric Classification at Weyburn Mental Hospital: 1921-1948.” [link to PDF of paper – available in English only]

Dr. Dyck is a resident in Psychiatry at the University of Alberta. He was awarded a Hannah Studentship from the Associated Medical Services to work with historian Erika Dyck while attending medical school at the University of Saskatchewan. He has presented on this project to the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine and the Alberta Psychiatric Association. As a medical student, he also co-founded the Health Innovation & Public Policy Initiative (HIPPI), which continues to host a popular annual conference on the future of health care in Canada. Originally from Regina, Sask., Alexander holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano from McGill University, where he was a Schulich Scholar.


Dr. Sarah Levitt

Winning paper: Separate, but equal? An examination of physician identities in the era of competency-based medical education

Dr. Sarah Levitt is a psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto. In 2016, Sarah received funding through the Royal College’s Peter Warren History of Medicine Scholarship to conduct research using the Royal College archives and History of Medicine collection. The resulting paper is entitled “Separate, but equal? An examination of physician identities in the era of competency-based medical education”. In a brief interview, Sarah discusses her paper and the research she conducted.

Royal College interview with Dr. Sarah Levitt, recipient of the 2016 Peter Warren Essay Prize in the History of Medicine

Royal College: Can you briefly describe your paper? What was the research question?

Sarah Levitt: My paper traces pedagogical understandings of “competency” in Canadian medical education over the past century. Through this work, I aim to gain a deeper understanding of the social weight of “the physician.” My paper asks, “How have ideas and educational practice of ‘competency’ in medical education influenced physician identity?” In particular, I focused on how the historical and current commitment to ‘competency’ shaped the scientific and social roles of physicians.

In the paper, I argue that though medical educators recognized that importance of physicians’ identities (and underlying skills) as social agents, they found it difficult to create adequate assessment measures for these qualities. There was already an awareness of the dichotomy between ‘physician-scientist’ and ‘physician-as-social agent’ as the concept of competency entered discussions in medical education in the 1960s. I show how ideas of competency, through the development of CanMEDS and novel assessment methods, attempted to bridge the chasm between these identities to encourage a holistic physician. This project resulted in only partial success.

Royal College: Why did you become interested in this topic?

Sarah Levitt: As both a medical student and resident, I have long been fascinated by the construct of the CanMEDS roles. The continued evolution of CanMEDS offers a unique lens into how physician identity is shaped by culture and social context; the roles represent an overarching view of what Canadian society believes it requires of physicians at a given point in time. The idea of essential physician activities and qualities is becoming even more symbolic in Canadian medical culture now with the move towards competency-based education. With the Peter Warren Travelling Scholarship, I had the unique opportunity to study the historical discourse around competence in Canadian medical education.

Royal College: How did the Royal College archives help your research? What kinds of resources did you find?

Sarah Levitt: The Royal College Archives provided an abundance of primary materials for my work. The Archives offer a wealth of materials documenting discussions regarding medical education in Canada. It is a rich resource for historians interested in this field! Peter Smith, the Information Management Assistant at the Royal College, was very knowledgeable about the materials available. With his help, I was able to find meeting minutes, conference documents, and archival journal articles all of which lent insight into how medical educators were thinking about and discussing the idea of ‘competency’ throughout the 20th century.

Royal College: What other sources did you use in your research?

Sarah Levitt: My paper traces the discourse of ‘competency’ into the present day. Medical education journals, anthologies, and textbooks were all valuable sources to inform my work. I also drew from materials published from other countries (namely, European countries and the USA). As CanMEDS are a Canadian-construct, it was helpful to compare how competence is discussed on an international level. Using these sources, I tried to understand the subtleties of Canadian-specific discussions of ‘competence.’

Royal College: Would you encourage others to pursue a history of medicine project? Why?

Sarah Levitt: Studying the history of medicine has enriched my medical practice; I find that the history of medicine helps me understand why my colleagues and I perform clinical medicine in the ways that we do. With this insight, I find that I can be more constructively critical of current practice in a way that keeps me striving towards continued improvement in caring for my patients. My work in the history of medicine also allows me to be more comfortable with the ambiguity that exists in daily medical practice. Clinical medicine can often seem dogmatic in a way that clashes with the day-to-day challenges of treating patients. Armed with knowledge of the history of medicine, I have a greater sense of how medical tenets change over time (e.g. it was not so long ago that hand-washing was considered ludicrous!) which allows me to find a flexibility in what can seem like rigid medical practice. Moreover, engaging with topics in the history of medicine has also contributed to my own construction of physician identity; its study highlights the social significance and symbolism of medicine, situating the field firmly within cultures. Study of the history of medicine truly illuminates the “art” of clinical practice for me. I enthusiastically encourage others to pursue their own history of medicine projects!

Sarah is currently seeking opportunities for publication of her paper. We wish her all the best!