A Day in the Life of a CE: Anne Matlow

By Jamiu Busari

Anne Matlow (@AnneMatlow)

Professor of Medicine, Paediatrics, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Faculty Lead, Strategic Initiatives, Post MD Education

University of Toronto

What is your educational background?

Professor Matlow graduated from the University of Toronto medical school in 1977.  She is a Royal College certified physician in internal medicine, infectious diseases and medical microbiology. She holds a Masters in Science in Microbiology and Immunology from McGill University and was one of the pioneer candidates to enroll in the Patient Safety Leadership Fellowship program organized by the US National Patient Safety Foundation in 2002. She claims that participating in the fellowship program was the most significant thing for her at that stage of her professional life.

In 1989, she assumed a position as medical microbiologist at the Hospital for Sick Children with a focus on infection control. Over the 22 years she spent there, she became medical director of infection prevention and control and medical director of patient safety, as well as associate director of the UofT Centre for Patient Safety (now Centre for Quality and Patient Safety). Anne is a graduate of the Advanced Health Leadership Programme at UofT’s Rotman School of Management. Between 2011 and 2012, she served as the Vice President Education at Women’s College Hospital after which she took on her current position in UofT’s Faculty of Medicine as Faculty Lead, Strategic Initiatives in PGME, with a focus on leadership, quality and safety, resource stewardship, and professionalism.

What percentage of your time is spent in clinical practice, teaching activities, educational research and administrative work?

Asked how she distributes her time among her various professional responsibilities Anne responds “so this is where I become a sort of a square peg in a round hole, because I don’t really see patients anymore”. Her teaching now includes UofT’s graduate program in Quality and Patient Safety, and faculty development at education meetings. Jokingly, she continues “I hung up my stethoscope about 5 years ago as my career got more into education”. Anne spends roughly 10% of her time on education research, 20% on teaching, 45% on administrative tasks and another 25% on creative professional activities, such as the Toronto International Summit on Leadership Education for Physicians (TISLEP) that she co-leads. Asks how she manages to devote her time to all of these tasks, Anne responds by saying that although on paper her postgraduate educational tasks are tagged at 0.5 FTE, and her other responsibilities roughly at an additional 0.25, she hardly considers her work part time. She goes on to add “when you have been an academic person your whole life, even when your job description changes and you officially work fewer hours, you still only know how to do it one way.”

Her current positions offer variety and intellectual challenges while at the same time, the mental flexibility to sit in her garden and work from home, and the time to enjoy her two little grandsons.

How do you enjoy your diverse career?

Explaining how she enjoys the variety of her clinical work, Anne responds by saying that having spent a vast bulk of her clinical career as an infectious disease specialist, one of the things she loved was the variety that came along with it, especially when compared to other focused disciplines such as cardiology. You sort of get to be a “jack of all trades” in a lot of things and “I am more interested in and gravitate more to the breadth (of issues) rather than depth” she concludes.

What challenges do you experience; how do you manage them?

Asked how she deals with the challenges of the diversity of her work, Anne responded with “that’s a very good question” [she pauses] “I hear myself saying a lot, just a minute, my mind is not on that channel yet” (she smiles). She continues “You have to be able to move back and forth. With the diversity of my work, it can be challenging but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do”. Anne tends to set aside time for things that are essential. She thinks that because her current tasks do not entail a lot of emergencies, there is a constancy that enables her to allocate her time in a way that meets her needs. In order for her to feel happy and content, she pursues satisfaction in the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual domains, constantly striving to maintain a balance in all of those areas.

Three tips for an aspiring CE

Asked which 3 tips she would like to offer junior CEs, Anne responds with the following:

  1. Interpersonal skills: Emotional intelligence and relational skills. As an educator giving people feedback, you have to know how people tick.
  2. Mastery: you have to be an expert in your clinical area of focus. If not, you will not garner the credibility and respect you need to effect change in other areas. .
  3. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.

And one extra… find a mentor! Someone who is interested in your welfare.