AMS Phoenix Conference

Cynthia Whitehead

MD, PhD


Principal Investigator: Cynthia R. Whitehead, MD, PhD, University of Toronto Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto; Director and Scientist at the Wilson Centre, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto at University Health Network; and the Vice-President Education, Women’s College Hospital

Cluster Theme: “Curriculum development to foster social and cultural dimensions of compassionate care (including indigenous ways of knowing) at all levels of education and practice”.

Leveraging Accreditation Standards to Promote Compassion in Education and Practice

This project is designed to help further the goal of instilling and sustaining compassion in environments in which health professional’s work and learn and builds on previous work of the investigator. Formal accreditation standards powerfully influence what is valued and taught in health professions education, shaping key structures and practices. One essential step in promoting core values such as compassionate care, is to ensure these values are emphasized within formal documents.  The work thus far contributes to AMS Phoenix Project goals in terms of instilling and sustaining compassion in medical training.  An important next step is to extend this work to other training standards.  This project includes the examination of accreditation standards for health care organizations (e.g. hospitals) to see to what extent standards, for the institutions where care is delivered and learned, enable and promote caring practices. In addition, the project will also conduct an analysis of accreditation standards for education programs in two additional professions: nursing and pharmacy.

This ongoing project has been very successful to date, and will be expanded in the next phase to answer the following questions:

1. What are the dominant discourses in the accreditation standards for health care delivery?

2. What are the dominant discourses in Canadian accreditation standards for the professions of nursing and pharmacy?

3. To what extent do the dominant discourses identified in (1) and (2) align with and/or explicitly incorporate humanistic values, i.e. provision of holistic, compassionate patient centred care that Canadians expect from their health care providers?

This project will provide critical information to ensure that we continue to align formal standards for health professions education and health care delivery with core values essential for holistic, person-centred caring practices.

Cynthia was a 2012 Phoenix Fellow. You can learn more about her Fellowship here.