Recognizing Outstanding Mentorship

May 19, 2017
Author: 
Erin Howe

Professor Gillian HawkerProfessor Gillian Hawker As a physician and academic leader, Professor Gillian Hawker has had many successes. But others’ achievements excite her most.

“When a trainee I’ve supervised with gets a podium presentation, media attention or publishes a big paper, it’s like seeing my own child win a prize,” says Hawker, the Sir John and Lady Eaton Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine and professor in the Division of Rheumatology. “It’s just a wonderful feeling.”

Hawker’s passion for and commitment to mentorship is being recognized with the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) May Cohen Award for Women Mentors. The award is presented each year to a female physician who has encouraged, facilitated and supported a mentee in career and leadership development.  

In her academic leadership and research roles, Hawker says mentorship permeates her work — and attracted her to the positions she’s held.

As chair of her department, Hawker says the most wonderful part of academic medicine is helping others grow and reach their goals.

Before she was appointed to her current position, Hawker was physician-in-chief at Women’s College Hospital from 2006 to 2014. She also held the FM Hill Chair in Academic Women’s Medicine, which promotes academic and educational activities in women’s health and offers support and mentorship to health-care staff in developing and managing their careers. Prior to that, Hawker served as the director of the clinical epidemiology and health care research program in the Faculty of Medicine.

“The ability to serve as a mentor is the most gratifying and important role that anyone in academic medicine can have,” says Hawker. “This is a wonderful recognition by my peers of a lot of years of engagement in mentorship.”

Hawker says she is in the solid company of many great mentors at the Faculty of Medicine, including Sharon Straus, Vice Chair of Mentorship, Equity and Diversity in the Department of Medicine. Hawker also credits Claire Bombardier — who was her graduate supervisor — for sharing an important philosophy: you’re not ready to be a leader until you’re ready to put other people’s careers ahead of your own.

In 2013, Hawker was honoured with the Department of Medicine’s Robert Hyland Award for Excellence in Mentorship and in 2010, she received the Women’s College Hospital Distinguished Mentor Award.

To young women hoping to follow in her footsteps, Hawker offers this advice:

“I’ve experienced more than a few doors close in my face, but a window has always opened somewhere else. Being open to these unplanned detours is critical. And regardless which track you choose, you need to be true to who you are, find you passion and follow it, even if others try to discourage you. Don’t be afraid— just go ahead and do it.”

Hawker is also a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences and a clinician-scientist at Women’s College Research Institute.

She will be presented with the May Cohen Award for Women Mentors at the CMA Annual Meeting in Quebec City this August. 

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