About the IDEAS Office

How did we get here?

When the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching published Abraham Flexner's report in 1910, there were eight medical schools in Canada and 155 medical schools in the United States, many of which no longer exist. The University of Alberta did not yet have a Faculty of Medicine; it was not established until 1913.

Some history of medical education might be useful in understanding the long path to the IDEAS Office. It was in 1954 that Dr. George Miller, a physician and faculty member at the University of Buffalo, got interested in teaching. He requested funding so that eight physicians could work for a year with educators. Dr. Stephen Abrahamson was one of those educators who continued well beyond this project to be one of the pioneers of medical education. He described himself as an "educationist" bringing clinicians and educators together. He felt that there "must be a collaboration between the faculty member who identifies the problem(s) and the educationist who brings the basic principles of teaching and learning and the basic concepts of education which can be tested and demonstrated." This is one of the primary purposes of the IDEAS Office, bringing health practitioners and "educationists" together for collaboration to innovate and study problems in the health professions.

Around this same time, our own Dr. J. Alan Gilbert joined the University of Alberta's Faculty of Medicine in the Department of Medicine. In 1966, he became the Chair of the Committee for Research in Medical Education within the Faculty and later the President of the International Society for Research in Medical Education in 1973. A short summary of Dr. J. Alan Gilbert’s accomplishments is below.

Dr. James Alan Longmore Gilbert

  • Promoted to UofA full Professor in 1963.
  • In 1967, moved from UofA Hospital to Royal Alexandra Hospital as its first full time academic staff member in medicine
  • Royal Alexandra Hospital, Director of Clinical Teaching Unit 1967 - 1984
  • UofA, Chair Committee for Research in Medical Education 1966 - 1974
  • Chair, Faculty Curriculum Advisory Committee 1966 - 1968
  • Executive member, International Society for Research in Medical Education, President (1973)
  • Implemented first OSCE at the UofA
  • Order of Canada on April 17, 1997 - Canada's highest civilian honour.

Dr Marvin Bala, Professor & Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan said of Dr. Gilbert, “I would state first and foremost without any reservation that Dr. Gilbert has been my role model as a teacher over all of these decades. He has demonstrated clinical excellence, lucid and witty, warm and effective teaching whether in the classroom or at the bedside. These have been the ideal in what I have personally tried to emulate. Incidentally his published contributions have been equally effective and appropriate.

Dr. Gilbert is certainly among the most respected clinicians in Canada and his reputation goes far beyond Canada’s borders. It was in the 1960s that the field of medical education began to flourish and one began to see a large jump in the number of publications in various health professions educational fields. In 1971, Dr. Howard Barrows joined the Faculty of Medicine at McMaster University where he developed problem-based learning, which added a whole new dimension to how we conceptualize curricular models and teaching methods. In addition, it led to a plethora of publications, for example, a 2017 PubMed search using the MeSH term "problem-based learning" resulted in 6,842 publications.

We hope that the IDEAS Office will be a mechanism to help move the field of health professions educational scholarship forward by standing on the shoulders of the giants of medical education who went before us.

References you might find helpful in understanding the pioneering work of medical educators

  1. Simpson DE, Bland CJ. Stephen Abrahamson, PhD, ScD, educationist: a stranger in a kind of paradise. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2002;7(3):223-34
  2. Irby DM, Wilkerson L. Charles W. Dohner, PhD: an evaluator and mentor in medical education. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2003;8(1):63-73
  3. Anderson WA, Harris IB. Arthur S. Elstein, PhD: skeptic, scholar, teacher and mentor. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2003;8(2):173-82
  4. Wilkerson L, Anderson WA. Hilliard Jason, MD, EdD: a medical student turned educator. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2004;9(4):325-35
  5. Harris IB, Simpson D. Christine McGuire: t the heart of the maverick measurement maven. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2005;10(1):65-80
  6. Bland CJ, Irby DM. Frank T. Stritter, PhD: educationist: teacher, coach and researcher. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2005;10(2):157-67