St. Michael’s “Patient as Teacher” program recognized at provincial awards ceremony for quality and innovation

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St. Michael’s “Patient as Teacher” program recognized at provincial awards ceremony for quality and innovation

Toronto, November 18, 2020

By Maria Sarrouh

Dr. Jory Simpson (middle) with Stephanie Mooney and Dr. Ori Rotstein, Vice-President of Research and Innovation.
Dr. Jory Simpson (middle) with Stephanie Mooney and Dr. Ori Rotstein, Vice-President of Research and Innovation.

One of the greatest limitations of surgical education is that students only see a snapshot of the impact breast cancer has on patients and their support system. To overcome this barrier in medical education, Dr. Jory Simpson and his team at St. Michael’s created the Patient as Teacher program. Through this initiative, survivors are empowered to share their personal stories and lived experiences with undergraduate medical students.

“When students come on their surgical rotation, they see a patient in the operating room that they haven’t met before. They probably won’t see them again afterwards,” Dr. Simpson, Surgical Oncologist and Assistant Medical Director of CIBC’s Breast Centre said. “A program like this builds in that gap and creates a whole longitudinal picture for students to really appreciate what those patients are going through.”

For their work, Dr. Simpson and his team received this year’s honourable mention in the Innovation Award category at the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario’s annual ceremony. The “Humanism Education in Surgery: A Patient as Teacher Program” was celebrated for advancing the quality and delivery of cancer care in the province.

In addition to providing students with a chance to connect with patients on a human level, Dr. Simpson, said the program can help survivors with the healing process after a cancer diagnosis. He acknowledged the courage of the patient-teachers, and their commitment to the student’s learning.

“They find that it’s a way for them to give back and make a difference for the next generation of doctors. It creates a feeling for them that their illness can create something positive and that they can help other people learn from their own experiences.”

He also recognized the efforts of facilitator and patient experience advisor Stephanie Mooney. Mooney works with the patient-teachers to make sure they are feeling fully supported, and has been instrumental in the success of the program.

Since its inception four years ago, the initiative has grown from a small pilot study to a program that is taught to over 200 medical students at the University of Toronto by over 30 patient-teachers. Dr. Simpson said he would like to see the program implemented at other universities. It has been piloted at universities across Canada, including the University of British Columbia.

The program has successfully moved online since the beginning of the pandemic, with patient-teachers guiding medical students through lessons virtually.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit

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