Interview with PARO Clinical Teaching Award Recipient Dr. Bryan MacLeod

PARO’s Clinical Teaching Award recognizes the essential role that good clinical teachers play in the training of new physicians.

Dr. Bryan MacLeod, Northern Ontario School of Medicine

Bryan MacLeod is the Medical Director for SJCG’s Chronic Pain Management Program and the Chair of SJCG ECHO Chronic Pain Interprofessional Medical Education Program.  He cut his teeth as a rural family doc in Marathon Ontario after graduating CCFP from the Northwestern Ontario family medicine program (NOMP) in 1998 and began clinical precepting for NOMP ultimately becoming its Director of Faculty Development.  On returning to Thunder Bay in 2004 he was NOSMU’s first chair for their FD committee and has since facilitated over fifty undergraduate modules, taught ten years of pain medicine lectures, while continuing bedside teaching, as an associate professor. Dr. MacLeod passionately advocates to for improved access to Pain Education at all levels of training and is one of two final reviewers for AFMC’s Canadian curriculum on chronic pain, opioids and addiction (release in 2021). His other interprofessional passions include geriatrics, rheumatology and palliative care.

What has fuelled your passion for teaching? 

I’ve been teaching since I was in Grade 8 or whenever you can start teaching swimming lessons. I’m an extrovert who loves communicating with people about things I’m passionate about. I’ve always been a teacher and I’ve never been asked why, but I guess it’s that piece about connecting with others about a common interest and passion and just learning from each other.

If your learners only remember one thing you’ve taught them, what would you want that to be? 

To listen. You’re given a gift in our profession to be privy to people’s deepest, darkest secrets and in turn they deserve our full attention. The healing comes from that opportunity to be heard. And if you really listen, you can’t help but be humble—which would be the second thing I’d tell them.

In these challenging times of COVID-19, can you share your perspective about teaching residents? 

This is an immensely stressful time and, unfortunately, our residency teaching has stopped during this time, but I’ve maintained contact. Having someone who’s a resident doesn’t mean the relationship stops there. I have an open door policy, if it’s to talk about chronic pain or if they have questions about their residency, they’re able to pick up the phone and call. Especially at times like this, reconnecting and just touching base, asking “how are you doing?” is absolutely essential. We have different roles that we’re playing in COVID, but from a community standpoint I think maintaining that support structure is really important.

How does the currently popular phrase “we’re all in this together” apply to the community of residents you have spent the last few years with? 

My greatest reflection now is being immensely humbled by the contributions I see our learners doing for the community in the face of COVID-19. Whether it’s making a PPE mask or the fact that there are medical students who are doing child care for frontline physicians and clinicians, so that those clinicians can do what they do. We have a lot to learn about the humanity that our learners bring to the work that they do both as students and as members of the community.

What advice would you give to a doctor new to the role of clinical teaching?

1) Take it slow. Keep in mind that this is still a learning curve because we’re all learners. So, take the role in medical education gently. Don’t take five learners at once.

2) Learning is never a one-way street. Most people teach because it helps them continue to learn, so don’t be afraid of being wrong and learning from your learner.

3) There’s a saying, “if it’s not hell yes, it’s a no.” You’ll do great work in areas where you’re passionate, as long as you don’t overwhelm yourself. To teach well takes time and energy so don’t forget to give yourself a break.

Do you have a personal mantra that inspires your love of medicine?

I don’t have a mantra per se but sharing humanity’s stories is a gift. I’m not a mantra kind of guy, but I love what I do because of the human connection and the stories.

Finish this sentence: A great role model is someone who…keeps their passion for learning.