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Dr Ian McWhinney, Canada's "Founding Father of Family Medicine"

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Photo of Dr Ian R. McWhinneyDr Ian R. McWhinney was an English physician and academic who moved to the University of Western Ontario as the first chair of family medicine in Canada where he started the country's first Department of Family Medicine in 1968. He became known in Canada and around the world as the "Father of Family Medicine".

He published over 100 articles during his lifetime and is well known for his influential book, Textbook of Family Medicine. The opening chapter, The Origins of Family Medicine, provides a brief history of medicine including the emergence and need for Family Medicine.

Dr Ian McWhinney suggests,

Two lessons we would do well to ponder:

  1. If the profession is failing to meet a public need, society will find some way of meeting the need, if necessary by turning to a group outside the profession.
  2. Professionals evolve in response to social pressures, sometimes in ways that conflict with the expressed intentions of their members.

In the first chapter he touches on many themes that continue to impact healthcare today: fragmentation of the profession, emphasis on technology, the deterioration of the doctor-patient relationship, the prohibitive cost of inpatient care, managed and integrated care, and how family medicine is the appropriate discipline to attend to them.


Web Links

Textbook of Family Medicine (Third Edition 2009) Full text on Google Scholar.

Canadian Medical Hall of Fame 2006 Inductee,

Memoir: A Call to Heal: Reflections on a Life in Family Medicine.



Does it have to get worse before it gets better?

In many ways the period from 1970 to 2000 may have been the glory days of Family Medicine. Chips began to show and now, everywhere we look, we hear of the crisis in Family Medicine. Here is an article that one might think was just published recently but a closer look shows it was published in 2004. It includes a table of themes from an earlier discussion and questions for further debate that still appear appropriate to our current times, see The Future of Family Medicine? Reflections from the Front Lines Reveal Frustration and Opportunity.

Cease fire banner, you don't speak for the people.