General Internal Medicine Strategic Planning


Project Details

  • Departments/Divisions: General Internal Medicine
  • Physician Leads: Dr. Alison Walzak, General Internal Medicine; Dr. David Shanks, General Internal Medicine
  • Budget: $20,000.00

About the Project

It is said that every challenge is an opportunity for growth. Over the past six years, the General Internal Medicine Division experienced this first hand, as it grew from six members to 21. The expansion in numbers brought increased breadth and depth to the Division in the form of diverse experiences. It also created the potential for inconsistencies in the way Division members modulate their practices, particularly in the Clinical Teaching Unit. The group began noticing discrepancies in how trainees were supervised, and in how patient care was transferred and followed up. Additionally, increasing demands from their in-patient care workload meant that the group was not able to focus strategically on better addressing community health needs identified through primary care providers.

Dr. Alison Walzak and Dr. David Shanks secured a SIFEI grant to bring the group together to create cohesion and collectively build a vision for both in-patient CTU attending physicians and overarching strategic priorities for the Division. To do this, they reached out to Randy Kennett from Hone Consulting, who had worked with the Division in a previous consulting exercise. Over the course of two 3-hour meetings, members of the Division discussed the main priority areas for the group for the next 1-, 3- and 5 years. Dr. Walzak was impressed by the turnout, attributing it to Randy’s reputation among the group, and to the commitment within the Division to move things forward in tangible ways: “It wasn’t a hard sell, I think because people saw the inherent value, the information that was going to be fed directly back to them as a Division member.”

The group collectively developed a series of documents to guide their activities over the next few years. This includes a document that lays out the expectations of an educator on the CTU, including how to manage trainees who need additional support, how to contribute to team teaching, how to ensure patient safety is optimized during on-call hours, and how to participate in evaluation. This document will be used as a reference guide going forward for existing faculty as well as for on-boarding new faculty members to the Division. The second output outlines the group’s 5 key priorities, with long- and short- term goals for each of the Ambulatory Clinic, Internal Medicine Unit at VGH, Social and Community Engagement, Reconciliation, and CTU Development.

Dr. Walzak believes the in-person meeting promoted participation from all members of the Division, saying “It was such a pleasure to hear from people who didn’t tend to pipe up in our Division meetings.” Most importantly, the process of refining their vision for the future has renewed members’ sense of community, social responsibility, and common goal-setting purpose.

Asked about any tips for other Divisions wanting to undertake similar work, Dr. Walzak stated, “Understanding exactly what your motivation is for bringing your group together. And asking for specific deliverables. For us, we had a pretty clear goal, and it wasn’t ‘just another Division meeting.’”


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