McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Sibley award winner 'strong role model'

by Suzanne Morrison
Published: June 10, 2011
Joseph Ferencz
Joseph Ferencz, associate clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences

Medical education dates back centuries to unregulated apprentice-based learning and barbershop surgeons, which is a far cry from the program design and curriculum structure which have become essential components of modern undergraduate medical education.

Preparing doctors who are knowledgeable and competent to practice has been integral to the career of Joseph Ferencz, winner of the 2011 John C. Sibley Award.

The Sibley Award is presented annually to a part-time faculty member in the Faculty of Health Sciences who has made outstanding contributions to the education of health professionals. It is named for a former associate dean, one of the founders of the Faculty, who was known for his interdisciplinary approach to community health locally and internationally.

Medical education — both undergraduate and postgraduate — hold a special interest for Ferencz, associate clinical professor in McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine's department of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences. His areas of interest include forensic psychiatry and emergency psychiatry. He has a special interest in psychiatric ethics.

An alumnus of the McMaster medical school, Ferencz has been involved in the teaching and supervision of medical students and residents since 1993. This includes tutoring, teaching clinical skills and providing large group sessions in the undergraduate medical program, as well as teaching seminars and providing clinical supervision to psychiatry residents at all levels of training. In 1998, he was awarded the Residents Association Clinical Teaching award.

"He has been a strong role model … and it has been particularly gratifying to see that many of his past students have gone on to take on leadership roles in medical education after graduation," said James Bourgeois, professor and vice chair, education, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences in his nomination letter.

Ferencz received his medical degree from McMaster in 1989, then his certificate in psychiatry from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1993.

He is a staff psychiatrist in the forensic psychiatry program at St. Joseph Healthcare's Centre for Mountain Health Services. For the past 16 years, he has also been a part-time staff psychiatrist in St. Joseph Hospital's Emergency Psychiatry Service.

While his educational activities have been rewarding in and of themselves, Ferencz said he felt honoured to be chosen for the Sibley award. "I've been involved in medical education throughout my career and it's certainly gratifying to have my contributions recognized in this way."

Shortly after Ferencz joined the department of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences in 1993, he accepted the position of core program coordinator for the postgraduate residency program, and oversaw the first major postgraduate curriculum revision.

Between 1996 and 2000 Ferencz was intensely involved in undergraduate medical education as chairman of Unit 4 (neurology, locomotor and psychiatry), a position involving the design, administration, coordination and evaluation of a four-month block of the undergraduate medical curriculum.

Subsequently, he actively participated in the revision of the medical program (COMPASS), assisting with the design and implementation of the professional competencies curriculum with a particular focus on life-long learning. He also contributed to the design of the psychiatry portion of the revised curriculum through the undergraduate psychiatry committee, designing case materials and illustrative problems.

Ferencz continues to be involved in the MD Program, providing an annual lecture to the MF5 class entitled "What is Mental Disorder".

Four years ago, he spearheaded the revision of the resident didactic program, revising and expanding the program to encompass the full five years of residency. While coordinating the overall curriculum, he is also developing a block of seminars focusing on psychiatric ethics.

"Joe is truly a leader among our part time faculty, despite major clinical demands on his time," said Bourgeois, adding he exemplifies the spirit of the Sibley Award in all that he undertakes.

This year, Ferencz was also awarded the Sister Joan O'Sullivan Award at St. Joseph's Healthcare. The award is presented annually to a physician who exemplifies outstanding teaching and clinical abilities while maintaining the mission, values, commitment and vision of St. Joseph's and the Sisters of St. Joseph's of Hamilton.

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