Message from the Interim Director

It has given me great pleasure to assume the role of Interim Director for the Institute of Health Sciences Education (IHSE). I look forward to working closely with numerous colleagues, staff and students in the wonderfully supportive and stimulating academic and professional home that is McGill University.

The Institute came into being in early 2019 as a legacy of Dr. Yvonne Steinert’s productive 15 year tenure as Director. A message from Dr. Steinert, entitled ‘Looking Back, Looking Forward’, located below, provides a brief overview of the origins and focus of the IHSE.

It may be tempting to view my stewardship of the IHSE as an ‘interregnum’. However, an interregnum may imply an undesirable or disruptive gap in governance. Given my penchant as a ‘mélomane’, I would rather reframe it as a rendition of the IHSE’s vision and mission.

The following are some of the principles that will guide me over the next academic year.

We have adopted a shared leadership model. The leadership team, which includes Dr. Peter Nugus, (Associate Director, Graduate Programs), Dr. Meredith Young, (Co-lead, Research), Ms. Safiya Simon, (Administrative Officer), and myself, will implement IHSE policies, procedures and regulations. This governance model is new for the Institute and is relatively unique at McGill. We are confident that our combined strengths, along with those of the Executive, will be able to lead and support the IHSE. We are determined to engage in our respective roles with transparency, approachability, equity, collaboration and consultation, and to value a constant quality improvement mindset.

I consider it highly fitting that the charter name for McGill University is the ‘Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning’. In my opinion, it encapsulates eloquently the raison d’être of the Institute. Aligned with the name of its parent institution, the IHSE’s goals are to deepen theoretical understandings of learning processes and to pursue avenues for their more effective application. It is also critically important to emphasize that the learning referred to here is learning by teachers, clinicians, professors and researchers as much as that of students, residents and other learners.

In my closing remarks, I would like to summon a very popular theory of situated learning, developed by Lave and Wenger in the late 1980s. It is referred to as ‘communities of practice’. One of its central tenets is legitimate peripheral participation ― the idea that novices in a learning community will move from the periphery, in terms of influence, power, prestige and privilege, towards the centre, as they acquire knowledge, skills and experience from more expert practitioners.

The communities of practice concept, along with other theories of practice, provides a powerful lens with which to analyze the various dimensions of learning.

I have my own interpretation of legitimate peripheral participation as it applies to the IHSE. I envisage our academic community as one where legitimacy is assumed and rarely questioned, where the distance from the periphery to the centre is very short, and where participation needs to be channeled and formalized, but does not need to be negotiated. I will endeavour to promote these characteristics while we await for a search committee to be convened and a permanent Director to be appointed.


J. Donald Boudreau, MD

Interim Director, Institute of Health Sciences Education


Message from the founding Director, Yvonne Steinert: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Our first year as the Institute of Health Sciences Education has been truly wonderful, and new developments have taken shape that point toward a bright future, not only for the Institute but for the field of health sciences education as well.

To my knowledge, our Institute is the first of its kind in Canada. We are an academic hiring and teaching unit that can provide graduate programs in health sciences education and offer an academic home to our faculty members, much like a traditional department. What makes us unique is that our Institute designation allows us to move beyond traditional departmental lines and disciplinary boundaries to create new knowledge, enable capacity-building, and promote knowledge translation.

The Institute has an inclusive mandate and community, bringing together clinicians, educators, researchers, and students from across disciplines and professions. This interdisciplinary and interprofessional approach cuts across silos and creates strong, organic links between research and scholarship, clinical practice, teaching, learning and assessment, curriculum implementation, and policy development.

At the core of this approach is our belief that better health sciences education leads to better patient care and biomedical sciences research. With health sciences education in hand, we hope to advance research and theory that leads to changes in the education of future health professionals and scientists, with the ultimate goal of enhanced health care. We are also a community – and a place – for shared learning and development.

This past year, Institute members and our broader community approached health sciences education with full hearts, sharp minds, and an overriding sense of humanism. I stress humanism because we began our first year with visits from leading global scholars to discuss the need for a teaching renaissance, the need for compassion and empathy in care, and the role of emotion in teaching and learning.

Through the fall and into the winter, Institute members also renewed their commitment to international associations, presented at conferences across the globe, published in leading academic journals, received Tri-council and other research funding, and won prestigious awards, while continuing to advance theory, research methodologies, policies and practices.

We also continued our partnerships with international colleagues, including Gifu University in Japan, welcoming a cohort of medical educators to collaborate and improve bedside teaching.

The coronavirus pandemic struck as we approached our first anniversary on June 11, sadly resulting in the postponement of our inaugural Richard and Sylvia Cruess Symposium on Health Sciences Education. Nonetheless, Institute members moved forward and persevered, leading pandemic-response efforts on the frontline and exploring new lines of inquiry into clinical, laboratory and remote teaching and learning, the study of grief, mental health literacy, and educational curricula tailored to the pandemic. To all of you – on behalf of everyone at the Institute – I share my profound and heartfelt thanks.

The pandemic also postponed our plans to recognise and celebrate the accomplishments of Drs. Richard and Sylvia Cruess, who retire this summer after a lifetime of global leadership. Thank you, Dick and Sylvia, for the incredible legacy that you are leaving at McGill, nationally, and internationally.

Looking forward, we have a lot to be excited about at the Institute. Our new PhD program was approved by the university and is now pending provincial approval. Our Foundations in Health Sciences Education Graduate Certificate is in the early stages of the approval process, and we are hiring a new Institute faculty member to help enrich our graduate programs.

The Institute launch last summer provided us with a clear sense of direction, enhanced visibility, and a renewed sense of energy. Our focus on health sciences education also helped us to achieve a comprehensive mandate focused on the art and science of the health professions, the biomedical sciences, and education.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the privilege of serving as Director for 15 years. I am incredibly grateful and humbled by this experience. We have grown and learned together, and I know that we have made a global impact in health sciences education by working together with passion and commitment. I am excited about the future of the Institute. Our faculty members and staff are phenomenal, as are our students and emerging scholars, who inspire us daily. Thank you for 15 wonderful years.

Yvonne Steinert, Ph.D., C.M.
Director, Institute of Health Sciences Education
Richard and Sylvia Cruess Chair in Medical Education

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