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National recognition

Alumna, N.L.’s chief physician named top family physician

Campus and Community

By Michelle Osmond

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have heard from Dr. Janice Fitzgerald almost every day since March, when she became the face, and voice, of the province’s COVID-19 updates.

Now, Dr. Fitzgerald (MPH’16, MD’94, B.Sc.’90) is being recognized nationally with a Family Physician of the Year Award from the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC).

Long history of serving N.L.

Growing up in Trinity, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health always wanted to study medicine.

Initially, she wanted to pursue community medicine and enjoyed the prospect of getting to know her patients. However, working in family medicine allowed her to see her patients more regularly and she liked being able to know and care for a family as a whole.

“Dr. Fitzgerald’s commitment is a role model for generations of physicians to come.” — Dr. Margaret Steele

After completing her medical residency in Halifax, Dr. Fitzgerald moved back to Newfoundland and worked as a family physician in Springdale from 1996-98. She then moved to Grand Falls-Windsor to work in emergency medicine with Central Health.

Family reasons took Dr. Fitzgerald to the St. John’s area in late 2000, where she practised family medicine. After completing her master of public health degree, she worked as clinical chief of long term care with Eastern Health.

Bigger picture

In time, Dr. Fitzgerald decided she wanted the opportunity to work at a broader level to effect change more widely. So, in 2017 she took on the role of working in public health policy development at the provincial Department of Health and Community Services.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s passion for family medicine is closely tied to her interest in public health.

During her years of practice, she says she has observed that much of a person’s health is affected by more than a one-time injury or illness and that she wanted to be able to influence these factors positively at the population level.

Dr. Fitzgerald took over as the province’s chief medical officer of health on an interim basis in August 2019. She accepted the job permanently a year later.

“Dr. Fitzgerald embodies what we teach all of our learners: That advancing the health of the people and communities we serve is of the utmost importance,” said Dean Margaret Steele. “Given the uniqueness of our population and the pandemic, this is important now more than ever. Dr. Fitzgerald’s commitment is a role model for generations of physicians to come.”

About the award

Canada’s Family Physicians of the Year, the Reg L. Perkin Award, recognizes family physicians who exemplify the best of what being a family doctor is all about. The candidates are known for providing exceptional care to their patients and make meaningful contributions to the health and well-being of their communities, among other attributes.

Ten family physicians are recognized annually, one representing each CFPC chapter, and are chosen by their peers, other health-care colleagues and community leaders.

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