Shaping Education Behind the Scenes

Jun 12, 2017
Erin Howe

PROFESSOR JACQUELINE JAMES WORKS WITH STUDENTS.PROFESSOR JACQUELINE JAMES WORKS WITH STUDENTS. Even as a student, Professor Jacqueline James knew she wanted to become involved in delivering and shaping medical education.

“Part of my original dream was to become a member of U of T’s academic community through teaching,” she says.

Last month, James — who is the Wightman-Berris (WB) Academy Director — received the 2017 W. T. Aikins Award for Course or Program Development and Coordination. The award is the Faculty’s most prestigious honour for commitment to and excellence in undergraduate medical teaching. James is humbled by the recognition and says it’s an honour she hopes will inspire others in the future.

“Course directors and education administrators are often behind the scenes working to support the people teaching,” says James. “So, I’d like to think my award will help others see that this kind of work has tremendous value to the Faculty.”

At the beginning of her career, appreciation for clinician teachers was growing. After she was appointed to the Faculty of Medicine, James embarked upon a Master’s of Education from U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

“We didn’t just move from being good clinicians with reputations for being good teachers — we made teaching a career goal,” says James.

Prior to becoming WB Academy Director in 2006, James’ roles included Course Director for the Art and Science of Clinical Medicine 2 and Chair of the Banting and Best Care and Education Committee. She was also the inaugural Vice-President of Education at Mount Sinai Hospital, where she is a staff endocrinologist.

James says she was highly influenced by the great role models she’s had at the Faculty of Medicine, dating back to her student days.

“As a medical student, I was inspired by Anna Jarvis, an ER paediatrician who led the Faculty of Medicine’s Health Professions Student Affairs. As was a woman of colour in a leadership role at U of T — which would have been unusual back then in the 1980s — she continued to have a positive influence on me after I began my career,” says James. “When I was a clinical clerk at Toronto Western Hospital, Herbert Ho Ping Kong helped inspire me to pursue internal medicine. When I began in this role, I reported to Richard Reznick, who was the R.S. McLaughlin Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery here at U of T and Vice President of Education at UHN. His surgical background gave him unique leadership perspective, which I learned a lot from.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of being WB Academy Director was helping build and introduce the new Foundations curriculum, says James, who will step down from her role as Academy Director at the end of June.

James says she’ll miss having contact with undergraduate medical students, who she describes as ‘a breath of fresh air’: “They’re a tremendously ambitious bunch and they’re always really inspirational. When they come to medical school, they’ve accomplished so much already, but they still have so much energy in them to do more. They’re fun to be around. I’m going to miss that kind of contact.”

Next month, James will step into a new role when she becomes Departmental Division Director for Endocrinology.

One element of her new job James particularly looks forward to is mentoring new faculty members and helping them building their careers.

Noting the strength of the diabetes and metabolism research group, which is coordinated under the banner of the Banting and Best Diabetes Centre, James says she is also excited to nurture other areas of research. 

“We need to build our endocrine research program in Toronto. I’m not a researcher, so it’ll be challenging in that sense, but I’m looking forward to building our clinical and research endocrine programs,” says James. 

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