What 40 looks like

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What 40 looks likeBy Annette Mahon

Only four out of 110 students in the Medicine Class of 1954 went into family practice, remembered Barry King, MDCM’54, during his 60th anniversary Homecoming celebration.

How things have changed!

The McGill Department of Family Medicine, founded in 1976, has become the largest in the Faculty, with over 200 residents caring for 100,000 patients across Quebec.

“We’re a hidden jewel at McGill,” says Howard Bergman, BSc, MDCM’69, Professor and Chair of Family Medicine.

It was an uphill struggle for the Department’s first leaders to gain a foothold in the hierarchy of medical specialties.

“There’s been a phenomenal development in primary care. Today, it is recognized as the foundation of a sustainable health care system worldwide,” says Bergman.

The past several years have witnessed unparalleled growth, with medical graduates choosing family medicine residencies in record numbers. Just shy of 40% of McGill students opted for family medicine residencies in 2015—a figure that has more than tripled within the past eight years. And 100% of the available McGill family medicine residency positions were filled in 2016, addressing the urgent need for more family doctors for patients.

The Department is also making significant advances on the research front. Its accredited MSc and forthcoming accredited PhD programs have close to 50 graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral students, compared with none 10 years ago, and its growing global health program extends to Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well as Indigenous health in Canada.

McGill currently boasts 20 PhD and clinician-scientist professors in Family Medicine and is developing a Distance and Blended Learning program targeting practising family physicians from all over the world. “Clinician-scientists are powerful instruments in developing new knowledge for both academic and clinical disciplines,” says Bergman.

In addition to hosting a Homecoming gala and international symposium in May 2016 in celebration of its 40th anniversary, a global network of graduates and teachers called “Friends of McGill Family Medicine” is being launched to help guide the Department’s future.

“I thought I could, I thought I could,” is a fitting chant for the dedicated faculty, clinicians, staff and students who have elevated the Department of Family Medicine to its rightful place at the peak of health care. They knew they could do it. And they did.

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