M.Ed. fuels physician’s teaching role

October 09, 2014

By Dixon Tam

Dr. Charlie Chen believes all physicians are teachers even if they don’t teach in a formal capacity.

“Even though we are constantly teaching patients, colleagues, residents and students, we don’t get any teaching training or education,” says Chen, who graduates from Simon Fraser University this month with a master’s in education.

As the physician lead for education with the Fraser Health End-of-Life (EOL) Care Program, Chen specializes in advance-care planning (ACP). He’s also a clinical assistant professor with the University of British Columbia’s School of Medicine, where he received his medical degree.

“With all the teaching I do, I wanted to get more pedagogical grounding,” he explains. “I wanted the theory behind teaching and learning.”

He chose to take his master’s at SFU, where he had earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.

Teaching flows naturally for Chen and he loves sharing his knowledge. He thinks palliative medicine exemplifies the holistic qualities that make the best physicians—courage, humility, honesty, curiosity, critical thinking, and self-awareness.

In addition to working with doctors and nurses, he also teaches the general public about the importance of ACP, which prepares people for when they may not be able to direct their own medical care.

“What kind of medical treatments would they not be willing to go through? What would quality of life look like if they were to become frail? Who would they want to be their substitute decision-maker and speak on their behalf?” he asks.

Juggling his career and the master’s program wasn’t easy, but Chen says it never felt like a chore because school was so enjoyable and stimulating.

“It was like someone engaging in a hobby that they love—they just find the time,” he says. “The biggest challenge was constant thinking. Because there was so much new learning and exciting new concepts, I was always thinking. I was looking at the world in new, incredibly eye-opening ways.”

The master’s program made Chen fall in love with academic thinking and, since he wants to be a leader in medical education, he is now considering pursuing a doctorate degree.

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