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Canadian Association for Medical Education honours Dalhousie's Dr. Joan Sargeant

Posted by Melanie Jollymore on May 1, 2017 in News

Some of today’s most effective and widely embraced approaches to medical education are rooted in research conducted over the decades by Dalhousie Medical School’s Dr. Joan Sargeant. These include the now-ubiquitous use of videoconferencing to deliver distributed education programs, and the move toward interprofessional learning models that bring health professionals from all fields together to foster stronger teamwork in patient care.  

The Canadian Association for Medical Education (CAME) has recognized Dr. Sargeant’s globally influential work by choosing her as recipient of its 2017 Ian Hart Award. Established in 1992, this CAME award celebrates distinguished career contributions to medical education. 

“It’s an honour just to be nominated for the Ian Hart award, I’m truly humbled,” says Dr. Sargeant, a professor in the Division of Medical Education who recently concluded her term as division head. She insists, however, that it’s only possible to achieve results in such a complex endeavour as international medical education research with the support of a strong team. “It’s thanks, really, to the dedicated efforts of staff in the Division of Medical Education and Continuing Professional Development that I’ve been able to accomplish what I have.”  

A Lasting Impact 

While Dr. Sargeant is an experienced educator and administrator, research is her primary passion. Since she started with Dalhousie Medical School in 1995, she has led, co-led or mentored others to lead more than 60 research projects with collective funding of more than $4.5 million. She has authored more than 100 scientific publications and given more than 300 presentations to peers. This work has led to innovations in content and delivery of medical education programs across the continuum, from undergraduate and postgraduate training, to continuing professional and faculty development. 

She credits the influence of stellar role models and mentors—like the late Dr. Karen Mann and professor emeritus Dr. Jean Gray, both internationally known leaders in medical education and former recipients of the Ian Hart Award—for the success of her program. And, she is grateful for her very rich network of colleagues at Dalhousie—clinicians, educators, leaders, researchers, learners—all of whom have contributed in some way. 

Among her many achievements, Dr. Sargeant is proud of her pioneering work to bring interprofessional education into the mainstream, which she began in the mid-2000s in collaboration with Cancer Care Nova Scotia. 

“I knew from my own clinical background in nursing that health care teams do not always work as effectively as they should—often to the detriment of the patient,” she recalls. “It’s been incredibly gratifying to see this work gaining traction, to the point that we now have the CHEB building here at Dalhousie, as solid proof of the university’s commitment to being a leader in interprofessional education of our future health care practitioners.”  

A New Assessment Paradigm for Learners and Clinicians

For the past decade, Dr. Sargeant has been exploring the role that assessment and feedback play in continuous learning and learner development across the spectrum from undergraduate, to postgraduate, to continuing education. Her international team is studying how learners and physicians are assessed in clinical practice, how they are engaged in feedback discussions, and how coaching might enhance their ongoing development. She’s working with collaborators across Canada and in the United States and Netherlands to refine a reflective model of feedback and coaching that allows external feedback to be delivered in a meaningful way that will be accepted and acted upon. 

“In earlier work, we learned that people are quite likely to ignore feedback that doesn’t resonate with their self-perception,” notes Dr. Sargeant. “So we started learning how physicians and residents self-assess, and used our findings to inform new feedback models. Our approach is not about praise or punishment but about supporting learners and clinicians to improve their practice. We are encouraging supervisors to become coaches.” 

The Medical Council of Canada, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada and Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec have all recognized Dr. Sargeant’s work in assessment, which is of special interest to provincial regulators as well. 

Dr. Sargeant received the Ian Hart Award from CAME at its annual meeting in Winnipeg today. She adds it to a long list of awards recognizing her influential work over the past two decades.