It all began in 2009 with a group of McGill medical students wanting to connect their education to the Montreal community. They understood that as physicians they would have an essential responsibility not only to their patients, but also to the communities in which they lived. And so the McGill Community Health Alliance Project (CHAP) was born.

On Sept. 20, physician and former astronaut Dave Williams, BSc ’76, MDCM ’83; MSc ’83, DSC’07, visited the Faculty of Medicine to honour two recent participants of the CHAP program. A physician and graduate of McGill University, Williams is generously sponsoring the CHAP Award, whose first recipients are medical students Jennifer Hulme and Zoë Thomas. Hulme worked at La Maison Bleue and Zoë Thomas worked at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.

CHAP, a year-long program that places first-year students with partnering health-related community organizations, has a clear mandate: through community participation and education, it seeks to pave the way for the integration of social determinants of health and community health in the early stages of medical school.

“It’s very important to recognize physician skills and leadership,” says Williams, who is particularly passionate about the importance of leadership skills in health care. “I think it’s critical,” he says. “Citizens in the community look to healthcare leaders for guidance and advice.”

CHAP is a prime example of the community commitment that is integral to McGill’s socially responsible medical education. Exposing medical students to the plight of the medically underserved in Montreal – like minority populations, the abused and those with low income – nurtures an awareness of the importance of primary care in a community setting.

Other CHAP partners include Santropol Roulant; ACCM – AIDS Community Care Montreal, The Montreal Diet Dispensary ; The Yellow Door; Médecins du Monde – Projet Montréal; Projet Cactus; Cree Board of Health/Native Friendship Centre; Project Genesis and Sexperts.

Montreal Gazette