Our Patients, Our Partners
There are many things that make the practice of medicine rewarding, but most of us would put working with patients at the top of the list. It’s the lives improved because of our efforts. To have that impact, an immense amount of training is required, coupled with research that can identify the best treatment options and new therapies, and reveal the causes and mechanics of disease. But those are ultimately a means to provide benefit and relief to our patients.
This is why our relationship with patients informs everything we do in the Faculty of Medicine. Our Standardized Patient Program, for example, provides important lessons to prepare our students for their learning in clinical environments. For more than 30 years, these talented educators have helped students to develop their communication and interpersonal skills. Our aim is to ensure our students have not only the technical proficiency to practise medicine, but also the bedside manner to meaningfully engage their patients.
The recent curricular reforms to the first two years of our MD Program have also underscored the patient-focused nature of medicine. Through case-based learning and a greater emphasis on the social determinants of health, the experience of patients provides foundational lessons to our MD students. This is coupled with the educational goals and competency framework of the MD Program, which includes key competencies that speak to the need to provide patient-centred care.
But it is in clinical settings where we best see how patients are integral training partners. Our learners — based in our amazing affiliated hospitals and clinical sites — work with medical professionals to aid patients. This includes our MD and Post MD learners, but also rehabilitation science graduate students on clinical internships and fieldwork placements. These environments provide rich learning opportunities and the evaluation of our learners is rooted, in part, in the quality of care provided.
Because of our close relationship with our partner institutions, our learners are able to be part of a complex and sophisticated health care system. It is largely through the Toronto Academic Health Science Network that hospital care is delivered in the GTA. The commitment of each institution to our common cause is inspiring. And, most of our clinical faculty working in affiliated hospitals must have university appointments in order to have hospital privileges. These longstanding partnerships — some having lasted for more than a century — make U of T, through its faculty and learners, integral to patient care and the patient experience.
Increasingly, patients are also informing our research priorities and the design of research programs. As discussed in last fall’s special issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, engaging patients in research can improve the quality of the research, but also lead to better care. This is an especially important consideration when conducting research with vulnerable populations. This year’s Dr. Peggy Hill Memorial Lecture in Indigenous Health featured an outstanding talk by CAMH’s Julie Bull who discussed Indigenous data governance principles and practices, and how researchers can partner with communities in meaningful ways. New initiatives, such as the U of T-based Diabetes Action Canada, provide us with great examples on how we can engage patients as research partners.
The Faculty of Medicine serves patients well when we excel in our roles as educators and researchers. This was underscored through our strategic planning process, which included patient voices. And it is deepened by departments, including the Department of Medicine and the Department of Family and Community Medicine, which lead the way in patient engagement. By preparing our students to deliver effective, compassionate care to patients, and by identifying new innovations and discoveries that can provide better treatment options, we ensure patients are at the core of what we do. And, in turn, we are made better health care providers and researchers by engaging patients. They are some of our best teachers and our valued partners.
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Vice Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions
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