A reflection on the Royal College at 90
M. Ian Bowmer, MDCM, FRCPC, is President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
As the Royal College turns 90, I realize that I have been part of half of its life and it has been involved in the whole of my 45-year practice life: from my green days as a resident, to being a new consultant-clinician and educator, to my present role as Royal College President — complete with badge and ornate ceremonial robe. This amazing journey of Fellowship has been marked by rich learning experiences, growth of a wide network of colleagues, and the excitement of participating at all levels to shape medical education, for the present and future.
It can do the same for you.
Lessons-learned in humility, what not to do and how to think differently
A Royal College annual meeting was the venue for my first scientific paper presentation. It was at 8 a.m. on a Saturday, the morning after a gala dinner. Only my supervisor, the chair of the session and the next presenter were in attendance. Useful lessons in humility and timing.
The Royal College later offered me a role as an examiner in Internal Medicine. The first time out, I had my own version of performance anxiety; seeking a way to put candidates at ease, I only made them more anxious (a lesson in what not to do). Over my years as an examiner, seeing patients and candidates during these formal clinical examinations enabled me to grow and learn as a clinician.
Later on, as my faculty and dean offered me more responsibility at home, the Royal College offered opportunity on the national scene. To me, as a new program director, it offered mentorship, education and participation in accreditation visits. These visits across Canada showed me not only how diverse our postgraduate education was, but how programs with vastly differing resources managed to achieve best practice and optimal clinical opportunities for residency education. The Royal College taught me to think as a medical educator: assessing what was successful and what wasn’t, and, most importantly, what residents needed in their programs.
Establishing global leadership
When the Royal College started work on elaborating the future roles for specialist physicians (what became the CanMEDS competency framework) I was among the many Fellows from across the country invited to participate in the working groups. My group tackled defining the physician-specialist as health advocate — no easy task. As practitioners and faculty from varying backgrounds, young and older Fellows, we worked together. Not only were we changing postgraduate medical education, we knew we were shaping a whole new approach to the responsibilities and accountabilities of specialty medical care. Heady stuff. But I don’t believe we quite realized then the impact these concepts would have.
Over its 90 years, the Royal College has created a trusted credential that is recognized around the world. Our international leadership is based on our constantly evolving and improving standards for medical education, including innovations in defining competencies, in assessment, in simulation and in assuring our ongoing clinical competence. Our Fellowship designation (FRCPC, FRCSC) demonstrates our individual commitment to a standard of practice that retains the respect of our peers, patients and the broader society.
Over the past 45 years, the Royal College has been at the core of my clinical learning and my medical education journey. It has provided me with an incredible network of Fellows who have been mentors, guides and colleagues. I am profoundly honoured to be president in its 90th year.
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