Advancing compassionate care in family medicine

Cynthia R. Whitehead

Award: Phoenix Project Fellowship (2012)

Co-Sponsor: DFCM

  • Medical education and curricula
  • Standards

As a general rule, healthcare professionals aim to practice and teach compassionate, person-centered care. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Cynthia wanted to better understand the gap between these shared values and what happens on the ground. Given that formal accreditation and curricular standards have a powerful influence over what’s valued and taught in medical schools, her project had several objectives:

  • Clarify how compassionate care is reflected in Canadian family medicine postgraduate training documents
  • Engage colleagues across numerous health disciplines around the complex issue of ensuring that formal standards include values such as compassionate care
  • Share findings at relevant conferences and meetings through presentations 

Cynthia’s work found a surprising absence of language about compassionate care in current family medicine standards. It gave us a better sense of where family medicine is doing well and where it can improve. When medical accreditation and curricular standards are aligned with core values such as compassion, we can create more cohesive programs that embed values such as caring into family medicine education. 

Hear Cynthia R. Whitehead talk about her work