The history of career counseling in our medical school divides nicely into three “eras”. Before 2006, students were informally supported through the efforts of faculty mentors, but there was essentially no structured program or standard approach. The next eight years or so can be rightfully dubbed the “Peter O’Neill Era”. Recruited to the role of Director, Career Counseling in July of that year Peter resolutely went about developing a program of individual counseling and innovative organized group activities that supported hundreds of students through the increasingly complex and stressful process of selecting and engaging a postgraduate residency position. He worked alone for much of that time, until joined by Dr. Kelly Howse about three years ago. As he steps down from that role this year and we enter the “post-Onellian” era of Career Counseling, it’s clear that he has provided our school with a very solid foundation to build upon.
The core of Peter’s approach and our current program is personalized counseling with attention to the needs of each student. That individual approach is enhanced with a series of information and orientation sessions that feature themes as diverse as CV preparation, how to dress and interview for success and how to navigate the CaRMS application process. Over the years, our students have had enviable success in the matching process, a testimony to Peter’s efforts. Kelly Howse has been able to build on the foundations Peter established, and is now leading the development of a national document on Career Counseling standards and best practice, which is rooted in many of the principles and practices Peter established.
I personally feel very grateful for Peter’s presence in our school. As a devoted Queen’s grad with experience in community practice before engaging his current specialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology, he brought a unique blend of personal dedication and practical “real world” perspective to his practice and teaching, as evidenced by numerous teaching recognitions through the years, including the very prestigious Connell Award and the Association of Academic Professionals in Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Canada (APOG) Educator of the Year Award. Moreover, he has always been willing to contribute and to serve, and I have certainly benefitted from his advice and support over the years. Although he’s moving on to another career role, I know he’ll remain dedicated to our school, and his life’s journey in education is far from complete.
What makes folks like Peter so very valuable to medical schools is really very simple: they truly and deeply care. That caring begins with their approach to the practice of medicine, but extends naturally to their students and their institutions. Great medical schools are built around such people.
Thank you Peter.
Anthony J. Sanfilippo, MD, FRCP(C)
Undergraduate Medical Education