Patient Engagement

AMS 2016 Phoenix Fellow Dr. Mark Hanson talks Compassionate Care

AMS would like to introduce you to our new 2016 Phoenix Fellow, Dr. Mark Hanson.  Mark is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Hospital for Sick Children and is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He is the Past MD Admissions and Student Finances Associate Dean/Director at the University Of Toronto Faculty Of Medicine.


We asked Mark a few questions to get a better understanding of what brought him to medicine, why he values compassionate care and the work that AMS Fellows are doing,  and why he wanted to be involved. Here is what he had to say:

Q: Why did you decide to become a healthcare professional?

“My decision grew out of my early experiences around health care. My mother was a nurse and for a short period of time between the ages of 9-12 my parents owned and operated a nursing home. I spent a considerable amount of time around the nursing home and interacting with patients, nurses and doctors. Another, smaller influence, I must admit, were US Television medical shows, like Marcus Welby MD (yes well before ER!). I remember watching them with my parents and being aware that being a doctor might be an option for me.”

Q.     What was the catalyst for your interest in compassion in healthcare?

“My interest dates back to medical school and seeking out elective experiences with under-served populations; in particular with Indigenous Peoples. I learned how little interactions I had often taken for granted could make a huge difference to the people I was treating.”

Q. What inspired you to apply for a Fellowship?

“My interest in the Phoenix Project emanated from my tenure as Admissions Dean/Director at U of T Medical School. The process was so ripe with competition that compassion seemed to play a minor, or non-existent role. I want to bring compassion and the patient voice into the admissions process and the Phoenix Fellowship seemed to be the optimal way to do so.”

Q.     What value does being an AMS Fellow bring to you professionally?

“The professional value of the AMS Phoenix Fellowship is quite significant. Already I have been connecting with other Phoenix Fellows regarding my project and have been able to discuss my Fellowship as a means to engage health professionals interested in these ideas but who are outside of the AMS community. This Fellowship is an outstanding learning opportunity.”

Q.  What one little thing could we do to make our healthcare system more compassionate?

“Bring compassion and the patient voice to admissions processes as that is where the compassionate journey of health care professionals needs to be established and begin.  If it doesn’t, it may never take hold and get going?”

Q. Have you ever been given advice by a patient that changed the way you practice medicine?

“Back in my exhausted days of internship I was taking blood from a patient and I was in a miserable mood & exhausted state. The patient commented upon my abruptness/ rudeness with an angry tone – he said he didn’t wish to be in hospital but he was and he expected better care from doctors than I was demonstrating at that moment. It certainly was a message that has stuck with me to this day – This patient was so very right. It taught me to always strive to be compassionate and professional in all my dealings with patients.”

Q. What advice do you have for healthcare professionals to avoid/overcome compassion fatigue and burnout?

“We are not perfect. Learn from your patient errors and actually expect them (like the one I made above). Strive to change and improve as a health care professional. I would say this to medical students in particular too as I think they worry too much that mistakes are to be avoided as opposed to seeing them as learning opportunities.”

About the author

Dr. Mark Hanson
  • AffiliationUniversity of Toronto
  • Twitter

Dr. Mark Hanson is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Hospital for Sick Children and is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He is the Past Admissions Dean/Director at the University Of Toronto Faculty Of Medicine.

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