by Frédérique Mazerolle

More than forty years ago, the McGill University Department of Family Medicine started out as a small teaching program with units based in Montreal-area hospitals. From its humble yet significant beginnings, the Department has since grown to become a leading voice and champion of primary care in Quebec, in Canada and around the world.

True to its mission of excellence, this year the Department is celebrating yet another milestone in its success story: the official accreditation of its PhD program in Family Medicine and Primary Care.

“Though the field of primary care has been around for a while, its recognition as an academic discipline is still rather young,” says Dr. Gillian Barlett, Director of Graduate Studies and Research in Family Medicine. “Up until recently, we did not have the sophisticated methods essential to a field as complex and diffuse as primary care.”

The Department recruited Dr. Bartlett, a trained epidemiologist, in 2005 to help increase research capacity, alongside Drs. Pierre Pluye and Charo Rodriguez.

“We all came from rather different backgrounds, but we all had strengths in different research methods [similar to Dr. Ann C. Macaulay, the inaugural director of Participatory Research in the Department of Family Medicine], that together made up the basis for primary care research,” she adds. “After creating and successfully putting in place the Master’s program, we knew that in order to move the discipline forward, we needed the PhD program.”

Starting out as an ad hoc program in 2014, the doctorate program in Family Medicine has proved to be truly unique due to its interdisciplinary approach to primary care. The program provides rigorous training in qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, knowledge synthesis and participatory research approaches.

“I first became interested in systematic reviews before I was even considering doing research in primary care,” explains Quan Nha Hong, a recent graduate of the ad hoc program. “However, I quickly realized that family medicine truly fit that purpose due to the complexity of the interventions between health professionals and their patients.”

McGill’s Department of Family Medicine is home to a multifaceted and diverse community of health care professionals, researchers and support staff, sharing the collective mission to contribute to the health of populations and the sustainability of the health care system. All this makes it a great choice for trainees.

“When I began looking for programs, I was looking specifically for one that would help bridge my interest in medicine and research,” mentions Lashanda Skerritt, the first MDCM-PhD student in Family Medicine. “The training that I have received thus far at the Department has changed the way in which I am able to address questions that intersect healthcare, medical education and biomedicine.”

Additionally, the Department encourages the participation of students coming from a wide variety of academic and work acquirements.

“Coming into the Department with a background in social sciences, I have always felt like my previous experience and input were valued by my peers and mentors,” adds Justin Gagnon, another PhD student in Family Medicine.

The future of primary care is increasingly bright – as the Department of Family Medicine advances crucial research in its pursuit of excellence in health care delivery, patient care and education.

February 6, 2019