How we do what we do.

One of the greatest challenges we face in the accreditation process is convincing the outside world that we’re actually doing what we claim to be doing.  Accrediting councils and review teams, themselves made up of medical school Deans and Associate Deans, are well aware of the needs and challenges involved in recruiting committed and capable faculty leaders.  They recognize that our needs in this regard are no less than that of much larger schools, and have trouble reconciling that reality with the number of core academic faculty.

With that in mind, it’s useful to periodically review our governance structure and recognize those who provide key leadership in all the various domains required of a fully functioning medical school.

I last did this about a year ago.  At that time, I provided an article on this site describing the various positions and people who are so integral to the growth and ongoing quality of our MD program.  The past year has brought changes to our MD Program leadership structure, both in terms of its organization and faculty assignments.  In fact we’ve carried a rather extensive review of our governance structures and key responsibilities, recently reviewed and approved by School of Medicine Council.  It seems an appropriate time to review both and update all our faculty and students.

In terms of overall organization, we have developed a number of key leadership positions, termed Directorships.  Each of these carry responsibility for a discrete component essential to the overall mission of the program.  The general responsibilities are described below.


In many cases, Directorships have evolved from positions that existed previously, but in different forms.  Many were previously described simply as committee chairs.  It’s become clear over the years that the scope of responsibility and need for ongoing oversight has gone far beyond simply chairing a monthly meeting.  The Director designation is a more appropriate recognition of the effort, expertise and scope of responsibility required.  So, with that introduction, we’ll review these positions.


Director, Undergraduate Admissions

The complexity of our admissions process has increased dramatically over the past several years.  In addition to the 4300-plus applications to our MD Program, the Admissions Committee now has additional responsibility for admissions to our MD-PhD, QuARMS and International programs.  Each brings its unique challenges, and continuing scrutiny to ensure they reflect appropriate values and fairness to all applicants.  Hugh MacDonald has chaired our Admissions Committee for several years through these transitions, and I’m most grateful that he will be continuing in the Directorship role.

Director, Accreditation

The oversight and guidance of our accreditation related efforts is a continuous responsibility, that will be escalating as we move toward our full survey in March of 2015.  In addition to guiding our local processes, that individual serves as our representative at national and international accreditation committees. John Drover has been capably filling that role for the past 3 years and will be continuing to do so.

Director, Student Assessment

Michelle Gibson has recently assumed this role, previously carried out capably by Sue Chamberlain.  This Director is responsible for establishing policies, processes and oversight of all assessment activities within our program.  Having recently completed her Masters in Education, Michelle brings considerable expertise and practical experience to this role.

Director, Teaching, Learning and Innovation

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 3.57.52 PMPerhaps the biggest change (and challenge) undertaken by our faculty over the past few years has been the introduction of new and innovative teaching methodologies.  Our Director of Teaching, Learning and Innovation (and committee) are responsible for developing policy, processes and oversight that will guide the introduction and delivery of teaching methods.  We have also charged that group with developing methods to assist faculty in realizing scholarship opportunities as they provide their teaching.  Lindsay Davidson will bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and innovative energy to that position.

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 4.08.16 PMDirector, Course and Faculty Review

Over the past few years, we have developed a comprehensive process for continuing review of all our curricular courses.  We are in the process of expanding that process to provide more targeted and relevant feedback to all teaching faculty.  Andrea Winthrop has been integral to this process and will be continuing as Director.

Director, Student Affairs

One of the key changes involved in this governance renewal has been to develop a position that would provide oversight and coordination to our Student Wellness/Counseling, Career Counseling and Academic Counseling portfolios.  I’m very pleased that Renee Fitzpatrick has taken on this challenge and is already developing proposals to augment our Learner Wellness program.

vanwylickDirector, Student Progress, Promotion and Remediation

This complex and critical portfolio requires a combination of astute administrative skill and sensitivity to the needs many needs of students who struggle with various challenges.  Richard VanWylick has been chairing our P&P Committee with great skill for several years, and will be taking on this Directorship, which better recognizes the expertise and effort required.

In addition to these largely administrative roles, a number of Directorships are required to provide programmatic leadership;

Director, Year 1

The first year of our program introduces our students to a wide variety of material including Basic Science, introductory clinical medicine, Clinical and Communication Skills, Professional Competencies and Facilitated Small Group Learning.  It is also a time of considerable personal and professional growth for our students, during which they evolve their learning and interpersonal skills.  Michelle Gibson has been guiding Year 1 through our curricular transition process and, I’m pleased to say, will be continuing in this role.

blog-murrayDirector, Year 2

In second year, our students undertake more intensive learning within clinical medicine.  They are expected to not simply learn facts about various conditions, but to integrate that knowledge into cogent approaches to patient problems.  To do so, they undertake more small group approaches, more challenging FSGL cases, advanced Clinical and Communication Skills program, and integrated Professional Competencies.  Heather Murray, who has been active in the development of Scholarship in the curriculum, and its integration into Clinical Presentation courses, is very well suited to this role, and will be taking over from Lindsay Davidson who has been guiding Year 2 through our transition.

Director, Clinical and Communication Skills

This program, which runs through the first two years of our curriculum, is key to the development of our students as physicians.  It has benefitted over the years from the leadership of Sue Moffatt and Henry Averns.  The role requires a high level organizational and educational expertise.  I’m very pleased that Cherie Jones took on this role last year and has already brought considerable innovation to the both educational and assessment components.  Cherie would wish me to mention that components of the program are ably coordinated by a team of dedicated Course Directors, including Basia Farnell, Hoshi Abdollah, Laura Milne and Lindsey Patterson.

moffattDirector, Clerkship Curriculum

One of the major benefits of our curricular reform was to expand the clinical clerkship in a manner that would allow for the provision of three blocks within the clerkship dedicated to formal education on a variety of advanced clinical and professional topics.  Susan Moffatt has developed and coordinated the curriculum for those blocks, with capable assistance from Armita Rahmani and Chris Parker.  Sue’s dedication and extensive educational knowledge are evident in the quality of those blocks.

Director, Clerkship Rotations

Our clerkship consists largely of a series of clinical placements in the major clinical disciplines.  Although largely in Kingston, clerkship rotation options have been expanded dramatically over the past several years, to both expand our teaching capacity, and provide students experience in various contexts and systems. These include our Integrated Community Clerkships (in Perth, Picton, Brockville and Prescott), as well as rotations in Belleville, Oshawa, Markham and even Brisbane, Australia.  In addition, our students undertake about 18 weeks of Electives during the clerkship, intended to allow for career exploration and self-directed learning.  The coordination of these all these options requires a high level of organizational skill, sensitivity to student needs and attention to detail.  Andrea Winthrop has been very effectively coordinating and expanding this program since her return to Queen’s a few years ago.

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 4.17.46 PMCo-Director, QuARMS Program

Jennifer MacKenzie has developed and directed a de novo pre-medical curriculum for our QuARMS program which is highly creative, delivering competency based learning in a variety of creative teaching formats.  This program, and Jennifer’s continued oversight, will be key to the success of this exciting new initiative.

wilsonChair, Professional Competencies Committee

Ruth Wilson has generously taken on the considerable challenge of chairing our Professional Foundations Committee and coordinating the efforts of our Competency Leads.  Her steady leadership has guided and promoted the development and integration of those essential components of our curriculum.

In addition to these positions, our program relies on the contributions of about 40 Course Directors, Competency Leads and Discipline Coordinators.  These key people are listed in our MD Program Directory, which can be accessed here.

So how does all this fit together?  Most Directors work with committees that are charged with the various areas of responsibility, as well as the accreditation standards that relate.  Our MD Program Executive Committee brings together all the committees and Directors to provide integrated program governance.  The graph below illustrates these relationships and reporting structures.


In developing these positions, committees and organizational relationships, the underlying principle has been that “form follow function”.  Each one, with it’s associated responsibilities and inter-relationships, arises from a need based on the mission of our school – to prepare our students for success in postgraduate training and in their ongoing careers as highly successful and effective physicians.  In doing so, we’re guided by our need to meet and exceed all medical school accreditation standards.

Achieving this, as well as all the other varied tasks required to operate our medical school requires tremendous dedication and commitment on the part of our faculty, which has never been lacking.  Three examples:

  • A need arose last Fall for people to chair our Accreditation Self-Study Sub-committees.  Those who came forward to provide fill these valuable roles are among the busiest people in our school: Leslie Flynn (Vice-Dean, Education), Iain Young (Vice-Dean, Academic Affairs), Stephen Archer (Head, Department of Medicine), Michael Adams (Head, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), and Karen Smith (Associate Dean, Continuing Professional Development).
  • This term we are offering a re-vamped Term 4 Clinical Skills curriculum that provides full patient encounters with groups of two students observed and tutored by a two faculty members.  This has been creatively developed by Course Directors Hoshiar Abdollah and Laura Milne, and involves no less than 50 faculty members, 37 of whom are members of the Department of Medicine.  We have had full support of the Departments and their leadership in this initiative.
  • Our Admissions committee and administrative support personnel process increasing number of applications each year, and have developed increasingly complex methodologies to review those applications.  The committee itself, document reviews, MMIs and panel interviews require the active participation of about 160 faculty members, who give of their free time to assist in ensuring all applications are reviewed thoughtfully and fairly.  They work side by side with members of our first and second year classes, almost all of whom contribute to the process in various ways.

What’s the motivation of all these people: building a better school – their school – in which they are valued members, and in which they take pride.

A village indeed, and an impressive expression of our collective dedication to the education of our students.

Anthony J. Sanfilippo, MD, FRCP(C)
Associate Dean,
Undergraduate Medical Education