Fall 2022 (Volume 32, Number 3)
The CRA's 2022 Distinguished
Dr. Stephen Aaron
What do you believe are the
qualities of a good educator?
A good educator has the following
1. Listens to the student and decides
what they may need to be better,
and is a good coach.
2. Has a good grasp of his/her field,
but at a conscious level; has a
3. Can empathize with the student;
knows when they are afraid,
From where do you think your
passion for medical education
My passion for medical education
came from having good teachers. Over
the years, there has been a change in
emphasis from a focus on the teacher,
to a focus on the learner. You hear less
about "I told them that," to documenting that "they have
looked after that." From syllabi to entrustable professional
What are some of the highlights and challenges you
have experienced thus far in your career?
Highlights include leading the change from a traditional
curriculum at the University of Alberta Medical School
to a problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum; creating a
clinical skills program for medical students; and being involved
in building a new medical school and rheumatology
program in Nepal.
What is your proudest accomplishment to date?
Getting a phone call from a student or resident who confidently
diagnoses or treats a patient using physical exam
tools or principles they learned from me.
Can you recall a teacher in your own past who
inspired you and directed your own course into
Dr. A. M. Edwards (Buzz), who taught me during my first
year of clinical clerkship; He cared about students and patients.
He was immensely curious, and
he was always having a wonderful time
More recently, you have been active
in advancing arthritis care in Nepal
and in First Nations communities. In
Nepal you helped initiate the first training
program in rheumatology. Can
you tell us more about your work in
Nepal as well as First Nations communities
here in Canada?
In Nepal, they had only two rheumatologists,
working at the same public
hospital; we put together an entire resident
training framework based upon
the Royal College standards, recruited
two Internal Medicine grads, and they
have since graduated.
The clinics in the First Nations
communities have been less sustainable;
the problems there cannot be
solved simply by moving the standard health care system
to the reserve.
It is noted time and again that there is a disparity in access
to quality healthcare for First Nations groups. Why does
this gap in access continue to exist and what steps must be
taken (by government and leaders) to eliminate this gap?
I'm not competent to give a good answer; the literature on
health outcomes says that wealthy, well-educated patients
do better no matter what disease you talk about. I suspect
that unless you address education, poverty, and social inequity,
nothing we do within the health care system itself
will make a marked difference.
As a respected teacher-educator, what would your
advice be to a prospective rheumatologist?
Make sure that you explore the breadth of rheumatology
before you subspecialize. I see that many centres have very
highly specialized clinics amongst which the rheumatology
residents rotate; there is something to be said for being
flexible enough to move on short notice from rheumatoid
arthritis (RA) to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) to
mechanical joint or tendon disease.
If you weren’t a rheumatologist/teacher-educator,
what other career path might you have chosen?
I might have been an architect or a mathematician.
If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you
I would spend more time in the garden.
You are marooned on a desert island, what book
would you like to have on hand with you?
If Wikipedia were a book, I'd take that.
Stephen Aaron, MD, FRCPC
Department of Medicine
Division of Rheumatology
Faculty of Medicine
University of Alberta