Fall 2020 (Volume 30, Number 3)
The CRA’s 2020 Distinguished Teacher-Educator:
Dr. Rayfel Schneider
From where do you think your
passion for medical education
stemmed? Can you recall a
teacher in your own past who
inspired your direction into
My interest in medical education
took root during my medical training.
As one of the Chief Residents
in Pediatrics, I had the opportunity
to be engaged in organizing educational
sessions for residents and
in teaching junior residents and
students. I also had the good fortune
to work closely with the Chair
of the Department of Pediatrics at
the time, Dr. Bob Haslam. He was a
master clinician and an outstanding
educator, intensively engaged
with learners at all levels. He more
or less took me under his wing and
inspired, encouraged and supported me to pursue a career
with a strong interest in medical education. I could not
have had a better mentor.
My fellowship in pediatric rheumatology turned out to
be a good match for a focus in education since my rheumatology
mentors were also among the most talented and engaged
teachers in the department. I learned from the best!
As a Program Director, you’ve built the SickKids
pediatric rheumatology training program into one of
the largest and most successful in the world. What are
some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Actually, being a Program Director in pediatric rheumatology
was the most rewarding period of my career. As a Program
Director, one has the privilege of accompanying the
brightest and most passionate young men and women on
their formative journeys in rheumatology and the opportunity
to learn with and from them. It has been particularly
gratifying to see residents and fellows transition from
trainees to colleagues and collaborators, and to be able to
cement long-standing friendships with them over the years.
One of the very best aspects of working at a training hub
for physicians from across Canada
and around the world is to be part
of a national and international network
of alumni. Many former trainees
have become leaders in their
own centres and experts in specific
diseases. It is wonderful to have farflung
friends I can readily call on
to help with difficult diagnostic or
Given your extensive work in
medical education, where do
you see the future of medical
We are in the midst of the most
dramatic and exciting changes in
medical education in decades – the
shift to competency-based education,
with a welcome focus on direct
observation of clinical skills and
coaching to competence, rather than an emphasis on highstakes
evaluation. We also have a long-overdue momentum
to ensure that the learning environment is safe, respectful
and welcoming for all.
You have been the recipient of many prestigious
teaching awards, but what was your first thought
when you learned that you would receive this
Gratitude for the efforts of my nominators, mentors and
colleagues and for the opportunities to get to know and
learn with so many residents and fellows who have spent
time in our training program.
As a respected teacher-educator, what would your
advice be to a prospective rheumatologist?
If you like a rapidly-evolving specialty that deals with a diverse
spectrum of diseases, with increasingly effective treatment
modalities and the opportunity to develop meaningful
long-term relationships with patients and families, then
rheumatology is a great choice. I find that, by and large,
rheumatologists are kind, thoughtful, compassionate and collaborative physicians, who derive a great deal of satisfaction
from their work.
Are you more of morning or night person?
Definitely a morning person, particularly when I don’t also
try to be the night person.
How many cups of coffee does it take to make a
At least two; a third cup has to be balanced with the risk of
Dr. Schneider received his award via videoconference from then CRA President Dr. Vandana Ahluwalia and Dr. Raheem Kherani.
Rayfel Schneider, MBBCh, FRCPC
Professor and Associate Chair (Education),
Staff, Division of Rheumatology
Department of Pediatrics
University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children