Last December, Gilles Brousseau, MD, wrapped up his duties as Vice-Dean and Director, Campus Outaouais, after almost four decades in leadership roles with the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. Dr. Brousseau, who has lived in the Outaouais region since 1983 and is a champion of medical education, was recently awarded the Ordre de Gatineau, the highest honour given by the city. In 2022, he was also awarded the medal of the National Assembly of Quebec and was named Family Physician of the Year by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Collège québécois des médecins de famille.
We sat down with Dr. Brousseau to talk about his key role in developing Campus Outaouais, the changes in the Faculty and the health system, and his plans for the future.
Looking back, what are your proudest achievements from your many mandates in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences?
I arrived in the Outaouais region 40 years ago. In 1987, when I joined the Faculty, I opened the Gatineau Family Medicine Unit (FMU) as the Education Coordinator. I went on to serve as Director of the FMU for 18 years. In 2008, I became Assistant Dean, and then Vice-Dean of Campus Outaouais in 2019.
One of the most gratifying mandates was certainly the creation of Campus Outaouais, setting up the infrastructure, and recruiting the academic and administrative teams. I’m exceedingly proud that we offer the entire program in French. From this vantage point, I’m quite proud to have been the first Vice-Dean of the first satellite campus of the McGill School of Medicine.
How do you see McGill University’s role in clinical care and teaching in the Outaouais region?
McGill University has a populational responsibility as well as a social responsibility. We are currently collaborating with several health partners in the region, which has helped grow the campus. The role of the university and my own role was to be the ambassador in the region. It’s a role that’s also evolving because at the outset, medical training was mostly delivered in urban centres. And then came decentralized or delocalized medical training. I believe that everyone in Quebec will benefit from the presence of McGill students, teachers, and researchers in the province’s regions.
How would you describe the changes in the Faculty and the health system over the years? And how have these changes shaped your approach to your work?
When I first started practising in 1983, I was already looking forward to working in a fully computerized environment. You may laugh, but changes over time have meant that I’ve seen the advent of computers, the Internet, smart phones, and now artificial intelligence—these are big milestones for propelling both the Faculty and the health system forward.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with several deans over the years, and each had positive values, was a great leader, and helped us with whatever means and capacities we had along the way. I think that, together, we’ve profoundly transformed the Faculty over the years. And, personally, I’ve always had constructive ideas and projects. That’s where I think that in my way of working, I’ve encouraged the computerization of our processes and procedures, both on campus and in the health system.
What legacy do you hope to be leaving at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences?
The advantage of having held my position for so long is that I was able to create a network of contacts with the different departments and health partners, as well as with other universities in the province, to see how we could improve our decentralized training with integrated clerkships and satellite campuses.
Secondly, I would say that I hope to leave a lasting influence: Campus Outaouais is a significant legacy for the population. Our students have great plans for the region and its population—training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, automatic defibrillation, oncology, and genomics. They’re involved in the community and will also be participating in the dragon boat event for the Fondation québécoise du cancer this spring. I’m convinced the population will appreciate McGill’s marked impact in the region and this presence in the community.
Do you have any advice for Danyèle Lacombe, MD, your successor as Vice-Dean and Director of Campus Outaouais?
My advice would be to stay motivated and to feed her interests and passions, to pursue the goals we’ve set while respecting the mission, vision, and values of both the university and the campus. I would say that if I managed to navigate those years, it was above all by staying open and being patient and tenacious, by sticking to my convictions and values, by sometimes spearheading pilot projects, and by working with a collaborative leadership.
What are your plans as you head towards retirement?
I’m going to keep giving some time to the Faculty because I love helping learners, I love teaching and supporting my colleagues—so I’ll definitely still be doing some teaching. I often say that retirement is not about stepping away, but stepping back to see things anew and revisiting how you spend your time. I’ve been preparing to retire for several years now. That means I’ll have more time to spend with my family, children, and loved ones. I have some personal projects, like taking piano lessons again, which I used to do, or writing a novel. I have plenty to keep me busy!
“You have to think big”: The development of McGill medical teaching in Outaouais, by Gilles Brousseau