Anesthesiologist Dr. Maria Gonzalez (left) is presented with a Niagara Excellence in Clerkship Teaching Award from Dr. Amanda Bell, Regional Assistant Dean of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.
A dozen Niagara Health physicians and staff are being honoured by McMaster University for their positive attitudes and exceptional mentorship.
They were recently recognized with awards of excellence for their outstanding teaching and support of students at the Niagara Regional Campus of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.
“Seeing so many of them rise to the occasion and not only provide exceptional patient care but also dedication to the training of our next generation of physicians is indeed inspiring,” says Amanda Bell, Regional Assistant Dean of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.
MacCARE Excellence in Teaching Award for the Niagara Region
“You don't do it for the awards. You do it because you believe in it.” - Dr. Samuel Thrall
Dr. Samuel Thrall is a geriatrician at Niagara Health and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at McMaster University. His take on being honoured with the MacCARE Excellence in Teaching Award is to pay it forward.
“One of the things I learned in medicine is the mentality to pay it forward,” says Dr. Thrall. “We stand on the shoulders of giants. I am the recipient and the beneficiary of all those people who poured time and mentorship into me. So, for me, it's the opportunity to multiply myself.”
Dr. Thrall says he wears many teaching hats as the only Niagara-based academic geriatrician at McMaster University in Hamilton. His focus is not only in the classroom but at his outpatient clinic inside the Niagara Falls hospital, working with medical learners in their first year all the way up to their final year in residency.
“At the heart of teaching is providing high-quality care,” he says. “As a physician, that is always the No. 1 priority.”
The 2021 census shows Niagara has the third largest percentage of adults over the age of 85 in Canada. Thrall says he wants to make sure students have the knowledge and the skills to care for older patients whether or not they remain in geriatrics.
“I ask myself, ‘How do we inspire and equip the next generation to do a great job caring for these older adults that make up the largest and fastest growing segment of our population?’ I want to inspire them to not be intimidated by some of the unique challenges that older adults are facing.
“That's the reason I do it. To see the growth, the development of individuals, and to know that they're going to make a positive impact wherever they go.”
Niagara Excellence in Teaching for Outstanding Student Support
“I couldn't be more surprised to receive this award because I just feel like it's a reward every day to be in this role. I'm just elated because I'm just so happy to be doing this.” - Dr. Wendey Proctor
Recipient of the Niagara Excellence in Teaching for Outstanding Student Support, Dr. Wendey Proctor, joined Niagara Health in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Proctor is not only a surgical assistant at Niagara Health, but also director of Student Affairs for the Niagara Regional Campus of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and assistant professor at McMaster University.
“I'm kind of one of the students’ constants throughout their educational journey,” Dr. Proctor says. “I help them with their academic concerns, career concerns, and even personal concerns.
“These are our future physicians and they need to feel supported, and they also need to know that there's somebody there for them.”
Among her many roles, Dr. Proctor says her favourite is being there for students who may be entering the operating room for the first time.
“It’s nice to be a familiar face in the operating room because sometimes it's a bit daunting for the students. It's a new environment. It's always a little bit scary. I'm there to welcome them and support them, and I get to see the amazing work that they're doing. It really is the highlight of my career.”
Niagara Excellence in Clerkship Teaching Award
“This award is very meaningful to me. I am very honoured to be recognized as an excellent teacher who made a difference in our students’ medical education by challenging, motivating and mentoring them to be better every day.” – Dr. Maria Gonzalez
Known for her kindness and warmth, Dr. Maria Gonzalez has earned the respect of not only her colleagues and clinical team members, but also her trainees. She is this year’s recipient of the Niagara Excellence in Clerkship Teaching Award.
Dr. Gonzalez has been an anesthesiologist with Niagara Health since 2003, initially at the Welland Hospital before eventually working at all three hospital sites. She has had the opportunity to mentor students for most of her career.
“I am very honoured to be recognized as an excellent teacher who made a difference in our students’ medical education by challenging, motivating and mentoring them to be better every day.”
At the top of the list of Dr. Gonzalez’s goals is a calm and supportive approach to sharing knowledge, while also providing the tools for self-directed learning, and “to make sure they participate actively and safely in the different procedures related to anesthesia, so that at the end of the rotation they have a very good sense of what this discipline entitles. All this while being a role model in discipline, compassionate care, safety, dedication and professionalism.”
Niagara Excellence in Student Support Award
“It was very flattering, of course, to be recognized and I just try to treat everyone the same: with kindness and understanding.” – Sarah Litke
Sarah Litke, Administrative Assistant with the Niagara Health Clinical Teaching Department, is being recognized for fostering community spirit and outstanding student support. Nominated by her students, Litke is this year’s recipient of the Niagara Excellence in Student Support Award.
Litke, who is described as kind, supportive and welcoming, is happy to break down any barriers between administrative staff and medical students.
She helps onboard all new medical learners that come through Niagara Health to ensure they are comfortable in their schedules, routines, and environment. As someone in the know, she is happy to point students in the right direction, whether it’s to find a physician or a pair of scrubs.
“I will see some of these students on their first day of medical school and then five years later as physicians when they're coming back to work in Niagara,” she says. “So it's kind of a nice, full-circle moment that I get to see them start and then blossom into their career.”
Other Niagara Health Award Recipients include:
McMaster Department of Medicine Internal Medicine Faculty Award: Dr. Stephanie Paolone
Dr. Barbara Tatham Award for Undergraduate Emergency Medicine Teaching in Niagara: Dr. Craig Brick
Niagara Postgraduate Teaching Award in Emergency Medicine: Dr. Tim St. Amand
Fedorkow-Mueller McMaster Undergraduate Teaching Award in Obstetrics and Gynecology: Dr. Katrina Zefkic
Clerkship Preceptor Teaching Awards:
Family Medicine: Dr. Ryan Chadwick
General Surgery: Dr. Anna Kobylecky
Surgery Selective: Dr. Faisal Naji
Professional Competencies (non-MD): Dr. Sean Robb