Canadian Medical Education Initiative

GWish is working with a Canadian advisory group of medical educators, ethicists and chaplains to develop a national Canadian initiative in Spirituality and Medical Education. This has involved a survey of Canadian medical schools to determine what is currently being taught in spirituality and health and what are the perceived needs by academic physicians. GWish convened a consensus conference with the advisory group, including members of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), to determine learning objectives, teaching strategies and modes of implementation. The results of this work will form the basis of a national initiative in Canada in collaboration with GWish to further enhance the integration of spirituality into healthcare systems in Canada.

The GWish Canada Initiative was developed in 2004 to develop a strategy for integrating spirituality and health into all medical schools and residency programs in Canada. GWish has provided more than 112 awards to medical schools and residency programs to help faculty develop required courses in spirituality and health. While the awards were open to Canadian medical schools and residency programs, only one residency program in Vancouver, British Columbia has received an award. It seems that the competitive awards program either did not attract Canadian schools to apply, and/or their applications were not of a caliber to be successful in competition with schools and programs in the United States.

The GWish Canada Initiative was developed with 12 leaders in Canadian medical schools and hospital training sites for medical students and residents who shared a common concern for educating medical students, residents and practicing physicians on the importance of spirituality and health in medicine. The Initiative solidified the interests of the Board members and assessed the need for leadership to develop an organized and concerted approach to improving the education received by medical students, residents and physicians in spirituality and health. View a list of the leaders of this initiative.

Dr. David Hawkins is working with GWish to spearhead this effort. Dr. Hawkins is the former executive director of the Association of Faculties of Medical Schools in Canada (AFMC), the equivalent of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). The AFMC establishes curricula standards and requirements for accreditation of medical education.

GWish conducted a survey of Canadian medical schools in early 2006, to determine how they are currently teaching spirituality topics, especially in the humanities courses. A review of the extant literature in Canada was also conducted during that same time to identify the state of the scholarly work in Canada on spirituality and health. These two research projects facilitated the Advisory Board strategic planning and consensus building conference in March 2006, hosted by the AFMC at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Ottawa, Canada.

Rather than backing an awards program for medical schools, the Advisory Board determined that the GWish Canada Initiative should make spirituality and health a major national initiative in Canada, on par with the highly successful Educating Future Physicians in Palliative and End-of-Life Care (EFPPEC) Project. The group discussed possible funding sources, additional Board members, and next steps for another meeting in early 2007 to finalize the plan for a national initiative.

GWish staff and Advisory Board members for the GWish Canada Initiative are currently working on the following:

  • A more comprehensive survey of topics and courses in spirituality and health taught in Canadian medical schools, including total hours and course content
  • A model curriculum for implementing spirituality and health in Canadian medical schools
  • A plan for faculty development to enable medical schools to implement curricular changes in spirituality and health
  • A funding strategy for providing awards to assist medical schools implementing new curricula in spirituality and health