McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Osler Club gets medical students, alumni together

Published: December 7, 2007
Inaugural Osler Club session photo
In attendance at the inaugural Osler Club session was inaugural class graduate and associate professor John Cunnington, professor emeritus and historian Charles Roland, club co-chair and medical student Anna Gunz, club supporter Wynn Bensen and her husband, club supporter and clinical associate professor Bill Bensen.

A new club has been formed to create a gathering point for both students and alumni of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, based on the tenets shared by the school and the world-famous Canadian physician, Dr. William Osler.

The first meeting of the Osler Club held recently featured a biography of the famous doctor of the late 19th century who grew up in Dundas, and the recollections of an alumnus from the medical school’s first graduating class.

"We want to bridge communications between the graduates of the medical school program and the current students of the school," said Dr. Lianne Gerber Finn, a recent graduate and winner of the William Osler Award. "We want to rekindle the flames of radical ideas that the school began with in the ’60s.

"From the beginning, McMaster’s medical school has distinguished itself from other schools. We are taught to learn from the patients rather than the lectures, to be open-minded, to apply ourselves diligently, and to pay attention to our patients rather than their illness. These were all values of Dr. William Osler."

Dr. Charles Roland, professor emeritus, former Hannah Professor in the History of Medicine at McMaster University and the curator of the Osler Library at McGill University, gave an outline of the life of Sir William Osler.

Born in Bond Head, Ont., Osler (1849-1919) spent part of his childhood in Dundas before attending the University of Toronto and McGill University. He practised for a short time at Hamilton city hospital, but became known for his work as a clinician and professor through his positions as the first chair of medicine at Johns Hopkins University and later as the Regius professor at Oxford University. His textbook on the principles and practice of medicine was used by doctors for several generations.

He changed medical education by advocating that students learn at the patient’s bedside rather than at lectures, and pushing the idea that doctors focus their attention on observing patients.

Roland noted that the founders of McMaster’s medical school admired Osler, and used his ideas in setting up the school’s renowned problem-based learning curriculum with small groups, emphasis on self-initiated and life-long learning and early clinical exposure.


Address to the McMaster Osler Club and the First Year Students of the Medical Class of 2010

November 22, 2007, John Cunnington, class of 1972

Dr. John Cunnington, a graduate of McMaster’s inaugural medical class of 1972 and now an associate professor of medicine at the school, said the McMaster medical training was radical in comparison to other universities where the standard was two years of basic science lectures followed by two years of clinical work at hospitals.

"The McMaster MD Program has remained true to its founding principles," Cunnington told the students. "It is still committed to self-directed learning in non-competitive small groups, collaborating together with real patient problems.

"You need to take responsibility for your own education - this is the strength of the McMaster program and the legacy of the founders. Take the responsibility to learn for yourselves. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do or what to think."

The new club is co-chaired by Anna Gunz, a third-year medical student, and Sara Sandwith, a second year student.

In addition to students and alumni, the meeting was attended by Maria Rowles, principal of the new Sir William Osler elementary school in Dundas, and representatives of the school’s parent council.

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