When Cathy Risdon was a family medicine resident at McMaster in 1992, she thought she’d just stay two years until she qualified as a primary physician.

Nearly three decades on, she is beginning as chair of the Department of Family Medicine, aiming to build a sustainable, inclusive learning and practice environment for current and future family medicine learners and providers.

“My five-year vision for the Department of Family Medicine is for us to be an absolutely irresistible magnet for both learners and faculty members and, as well, for us to play a key role in a redesigned provincial healthcare system,” said Risdon.

“I am excited to take on the challenge of chairing this department.  We have extraordinary people engaged in our mission of service, teaching, and discovery.  It’s my privilege to do all that I can to help them thrive.”    

Her appointment begins Oct. 1, pending formal university approvals.

Risdon says her first priority is attending to the exhaustion created by the department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Clinicians, educators and all of the staff involved in our clinical and educational mission have had tremendous, sustained pressures to face in the service of continuing full patient care, supporting our learners and offering academic leadership to primary care communities around the province”. 

For Risdon, renewal of the Department’s working environments will involve exploring a four-day work week, optimizing employee engagement in the hybrid workplace, and investing in culture of humility and equity.  She also wants to continue to ensure the urgent priorities facing all citizens are addressed and prioritized in departmental life.

“Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people, addressing racism and other structural and social forms of exclusion, climate change…as an academic department of family medicine we need to ensure these priorities infuse our work at all levels.”

For Risdon, breaking down barriers and honouring different viewpoints is also key to building a successful department capable of training top-quality family doctors and attracting skilled staff and faculty.

She is a professor and former vice-chair at the Department of Family Medicine, as well as co-lead for the McMaster Family Health Team. She was the inaugural David Braley-Nancy Gordon Endowed Chair in Family Medicine (2001-2011).

A graduate of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University (1987) before coming to McMaster to obtain her MD in 1992, Risdon completed her family medicine residency in 1994 and a fellowship in community oriented primary care in 1995. She earned her Doctor of Management at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK in 2008.

“Dr. Risdon has a stellar track record of both strong leadership and medical expertise,” said Paul O’Byrne, dean and vice-president of McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

“In her new role, she will continue to be a strong advocate for patients, a new generation of family physicians and primary care research, which will keep McMaster University at the forefront of best practices in family medicine.”



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