Meet Royal College President, Dr. Richard Reznick
For nearly three decades, Richard Reznick, MD, FRCSC, MEd, FACS, FRCSEd (hon), FRCSI (hon), FRCS (hon), has been actively involved with the Royal College, serving in various leadership capacities, including as the Royal College’s vice president of education and vice chair of Royal College International.
Dr. Reznick, a surgeon, was the founding director of an education research unit (the Wilson Centre), chair of the Department of Surgery at University of Toronto, and dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s University. Early in his career, he was also instrumental in developing the OSCE that is now used for medical licensure in Canada. As dean at Queen’s, Dr. Reznick championed the introduction of competency-based medical education for all residency programs at that university.
And on February 25, 2021, he took on a new role as our 46th President.
We sat down with Dr. Reznick recently and he shared insights on family life, his priorities for the Royal College over the next two years, and how he plans to support Fellows.
What would you like Fellows and Resident Affiliates to know about you?
First and foremost is my great family – my wife, Cheryl, our three wonderful kids and their partners, and my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Saul. We’re quite a close family, and I enjoy my time with them – particularly with my grandson.
In terms of my career, in 1982, as I was finishing my training, I made a very critical life decision, and that was to start down a pathway of gaining some specific expertise in the field of medical education. That decision, to focus on the educational aspect of our academic mission, has made all the difference for me, and has very much defined the nature of my career pathway. And, at its heart, the Royal College is an educational institution, so it’s with great excitement that I now take on this role.
What are your priorities for the Royal College over the next two years?
As I begin in my role as President, I see many great things in our future.
As we continue to transform Canada’s residency training through Competence by Design, I will support and promote its successful rollout. Competence by Design is a once in a generation evolution in medical education, and I know that it will only strengthen the future of our training programs and the health care system.
I’d also like our College to further engage and support residents and Fellows throughout their careers. Fellows of today and of our future will increasingly be pushing boundaries and exploring innovations. We’re at the beginning of a great transformation in medicine, as artificial intelligence and emerging technologies begin to take hold. Now is the time for the Royal College to support cutting-edge training that will translate to advances and improvements in patient care.
Additionally, I will prioritize the Royal College’s ongoing work on equity, diversity and inclusion. We have begun to take steps towards ensuring quality and culturally safe care for underserved populations. We must continue to prioritize Indigenous health education across all residency training programs and throughout professional practice by providing educational tools and resources. We’ve committed to listen, learn and act against racism and fight for equity, diversity and inclusion in medicine, and in our day-to-day lives. We must weave these values into all aspects of the health care continuum from education through to our systems.
I see the role of the President as one of making sure Council is a very strong partner with the management team at the Royal College so that we are unified in our direction and in our goal to push forward our vison and mission.
What is one thing that most excites you about stepping into this role?
Well, I’ve been working with Council in one way or another for almost three decades. I think, if I trace back my first involvement with Council, it was on a committee for the original conceptualization of CanMEDS, so I’ve been intimately involved with Council over the years. I think the most exciting thing about being President is that it continues, using a different platform, a quest to push forward the science of education as a route to improving health care for our country.
How do you plan to continue to engage and support Fellows and Resident Affiliates?
Fellowship engagement is critical to all of us. The important thing is to ensure that the Royal College continues to be a trusted partner in the lives of our Fellows, but also in the institutions within which they work. I think it’s important that Fellows have faith in us to oversee the educational process and to deliver a first-class examination process. But now, more than ever, I think it’s important that the College be involved in helping support our Fellows in their careers. I believe that the careers of our Fellows aren’t going to be static – not that they were ever completely static – but that the changes of the next 40 years will be much more dramatic than the changes of the last 40 years. So, it may well be that specialists of the future will go through multiple transitions in their careers, and I think the College can play a very important role in helping them prepare for those transitions and in acquiring new skills and competencies.
In terms of Resident Affiliates, I would like to see our membership expand. We do have touch points with our resident colleagues through many different ways, through their universities, through organizations like RDoC and FMRQ. So, we have multiple ways of connecting with our residents, but only a subset has elected to become Resident Affiliates. I’d like to see that increase and we will continue to work on providing benefits to residents and engaging them in an important way.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what do you see as the more immediate priorities for the Royal College?
Like all organizations around the world, the Royal College has had to respond to the challenges of COVID-19. Importantly, we’ve had to carry on our core business, which we have done and I think we’ve done it very well. A good example of that is the delivery of our examinations. The changes that we have enacted over the last year have been quite profound, and were made on an incredibly accelerated timeline. We created and delivered virtual examinations, and a process that would normally have taken many, many years to do, the College team did in a few months. And not just the examinations team, but all areas of the College contributed to the effort…all hands were on deck. I think it speaks to the character of an organization when it can respond to extraordinary circumstances and extraordinary pressures, and do so to a standard of which we can all be proud.
But there are things to be concerned about. The thing that I worry about the most right now is the decreased experiences that some of our current residents are having in some specialties because of the need to prioritize care for patients with COVID-19. The impact of COVID-19, particularly on procedural specialties has been pretty dramatic. I think we need to keep our eye on that ball, and continue to look for innovative ways to optimize learning experiences, so that all residents are able to achieve the requisite skills of their discipline.
What are some of the unique challenges of beginning your presidency during a global pandemic and how will you overcome them?
We’ve had to change gears, like most other organizations, to a virtual meeting culture, and I think we’ve made the most of it and we’ve done pretty well in keeping the communications going. We’ve had Council meetings where, instead of spending two or three days together, we’re now using multiple touch points on Zoom or WebEx. But I think we have to be a little careful and to me, herein lies the biggest challenge. There’s a risk of losing the creativity that comes from generative discussions, that comes from the water cooler, that emanates from a cup of coffee at the end of the day and I think we have to find ways of not losing that. If the pandemic persists for much longer, I think we’re going to need to find ways of accomplishing that strategic thinking in different ways and I think from a Council perspective, to me, that’s an important challenge that we need to meet.
Dr. Reznick will serve as Royal College President from 2021-2023. Read Dr. Reznick’s full biography.