Dr. Maureen Topps named Honorary Fellow
If Maureen Topps, MB ChB, has a motto, it’s this: “When opportunities come along, take strategic risks.”
That philosophy, she says, guided her widely recognized work in integrating the postgraduate activities of two independent entities—the Northern Ontario Medical Program and the Northeastern Medical Education Program—under the umbrella of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM). This work started with her appointment as NOSM’s first postgraduate dean in 2005 and continued with her later appointment in the same role at the University of Calgary and subsequent promotion to senior associate dean.
In fact, it’s a philosophy that has served her well the length of her career to date.
A gifted team-builder
Dr. Topps was raised in a small highland village in Scotland. There were very few medical services in her home community. Her high school graduating class had only 12 students. She was the first in her family to even go to university.
“Most of my career I’ve been in smaller communities. I am a strong supporter of rural medicine. I like the integration of communities and rural medicine; it’s second to none,” she says. “The community is so engaged with you.”
Dr. Topps is well known for her ability to advance medical education through strategic, effective and inclusive collaboration and cooperation. In addition to NOSM, the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary benefited from her special skillset.
“I’ve been very fortunate with opportunities, over time, to build and develop professional teams—especially from scratch, as was the case with NOSM,” she says.
The NOSM experience
When Dr. Topps first arrived at NOSM she saw a lot of excitement in Northern Ontario for the new school—and high expectations for its success.
“I was a stranger brought in,” she said. “We had two very disparate organizations—successful medical training programs in Sudbury and Thunder Bay—that needed to come together under a brand new organization.”
NOSM proved a great learning experience in medical administration. It inspired Dr. Topps to learn more. In 2014, with NOSM’s support, she earned an executive MBA from Athabasca University.
“NOSM is a very interesting hybrid organization. It’s both a medical school and a not-for-profit institution. I needed to learn about corporate culture and how to help run a non-profit organization, so that was part of the reasoning for acquiring an MBA,” she says.
Dr. Topps sees administrative medicine as a vital career pathway in health care, one she would like to see more young professionals consider. “It can be very rewarding and fulfilling.”
A dedicated Royal College Volunteer and new head of MCC
Dr. Topps has a long history of volunteering for the Royal College. This includes serving on the Accreditation Committee and many of its subcommittees, as an onsite surveyor and helping create international standards for program recognition as part of the Royal College’s international offering.
She says her affection for the Royal College partly stems from the support she received as an “unknown family physician” from NOSM learning what was needed for Royal College residency training.
In fall 2018, Dr. Topps was appointed to the top job at the Medical Council of Canada (MCC).
She describes the MCC as “a hidden gem in Canadian medical education and assessments,” with strong and mutually beneficial relationships with sister organizations in Canada, including the Royal College. Each organization, she says, has “a role to play in reassuring the public about the qualifications of physicians entering service.
“We all improve the medical assessment and training landscape for the benefit of Canadians.”