Dr. Omar Din Honoured by Professional Association of Residents of Alberta with 2018-2019 Clinical Teaching Award

It's easy to see why Dr. Omar Din gets such positive reviews among Psychiatry Department Residents.

01 September 2019

It's easy to see why Dr. Omar Din gets such positive reviews among Psychiatry Department Residents.

He's friendly and approachable, he laughs often and easily, he clearly loves his chosen profession, and he's passionate about his role as a preceptor and mentor to Alberta's next generation of Psychiatrists.

"At my core I'm like a big Resident myself. I'm like a PGY15 going on 16," he chuckles.

"I appreciate my connection with Residents and I understand - having been a Resident not that long ago - what things Residents would probably want in an ideal rotation, and what qualities they would want from their preceptor."

On this humid summer day, we've agreed to meet in the busy Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic at Edmonton's Grey Nuns Hospital, where he has been a practicing Psychiatrist for 11 years.

A member of the Residency Program Committee and an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Din was recently honoured with the 2018-2019 Clinical Teaching Award by the Professional Association of Residents of Alberta (PARA).

The award recognizes a Physician preceptor in the City of Edmonton who has shown excellence in Resident education.

"I'd like to thank the Residents for nominating me for this great honour," he says. "I really appreciate having had this opportunity to teach Residents and mentor them over the years. I love teaching and sincerely appreciate being recognized for my efforts."

For Dr. Din, it seems, teaching is more than a professional obligation. It's a passion and part of a long family tradition.

"I come from a family of teachers. My mother was an Educational Psychologist, my father was a University Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and my sister is a teacher," says Dr. Din, who grew up in Fort McMurray and moved to Edmonton in the mid-1990s to attend the University of Alberta.

"My wife, Dr. Afshan Ghani, is an active and involved preceptor as well. She's an Assistant Clinical Professor in General Internal Medicine at the U of A and she practices at University of Alberta Hospital, so we're both pretty involved in Residents' education," he notes.

"It's an important part of our lives and I look up to her in terms of motivating me and helping me to provide the best educational experience I can for Residents."

So how would Dr. Din describe the qualities of a great teacher and mentor? It's a question that elicits a long, thoughtful response.

"I try to think about the things I was blessed with over the years, having wonderful people teach me in a certain way. Then I try to adopt those qualities in terms of how I approach teaching Residents now, whether they are junior Residents or senior Residents preparing to transition into practice," he says.

"Those qualities include being enthusiastic and understanding, and taking your time with teaching. It means being very focal in the things you want to get across for learners to grasp. It also means having a collegial environment, having a good sense of humour and working well together as a team. I treat Residents as colleagues, so I don't view it as a hierarchical relationship with them. Over the years I've found that to be a very powerful thing," he adds.

"I've also been fortunate to work with many Residents over the years who are incredibly talented people, so it's really a two-way relationship. I learn from them as well, and they've pushed me to be a better teacher and preceptor."

When asked who he regards as his own biggest influencers over the years, he promptly rattles off a list of current and past faculty members from the Department of Psychiatry.

They include Dr. Andrei Poukhovski, an Assistant Clinical Professor; Dr. Ron Oswald, Associate Clinical Professor; Dr. Atul Khullar, Associate Clinical Professor; Dr. Lorne Warneke, Clinical Professor; Dr. Daniel Li, an Assistant Clinical Professor; and Dr. Klaus Gendemann, Clinical Professor.
"Dr. Daniel Li I would say was a huge influence. I worked with him a fair bit in my own training. He's now the program Chair with Alberta Health Services (as Interim Zone Clinical Department Head - Addiction and Mental Health). He's such a wonderful person and he has such a kind manner with patients and with people in general. I really looked up to him in terms of how he dealt with and approached learners, staff and patients," he says.

"Dr. Poukhovski is also a great ambassador for Psychiatry and he was a mentor for me early in my career. In fact, while I was in medical school, I worked with a number of people at Alberta Hospital Edmonton and they were very kind and collegial. It was a great working environment."

Looking back, he says, that's where his passion for Psychiatry was born.

"In medical school they had this rotation called a Psychiatric Externship at Alberta Hospital Edmonton. Medical students could do this elective rotation. I was in Acute Care Psychiatry there, working on a secure unit with Dr. Poukhovski and I just loved the work. It was different every day, and I got exposure to some fascinating clinical cases. I knew from that moment that this is what I wanted to do with my career."

At Grey Nuns Hospital, where he is the Department of Psychiatry's Resident Coordinator, Dr. Din is one of 18 staff Psychiatrists who oversee a large inpatient population that includes 70 beds in three separate units, including a 10-bed secure unit. That makes it one of the largest inpatient hospital sites in the city.

"It's a wonderful collegial environment here and I have some great colleagues. It feels like a family and everyone gets along very well. We look out for each other and provide good advice to one other when needed. It's been a wonderful place to work and I feel very fortunate to be here."

Now that he has reached the ripe old age of 40, what are Dr. Din's future career aspirations?

"Well, as you can see, I'm pretty invested in teaching. I love teaching, I love being involved with Residents' education, and I'll continue in my role as Psychiatry Coordinator for Residents here at Grey Nuns. I'll also continue working with the Residency Program Committee, and advocating for Residents," he says.

"I would also like to get involved with some Royal College (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada) related educational activities in the future - perhaps becoming a Royal College examiner, if such an opportunity arose."