CanMEDS and You

CanMEDS and You



The Roles described by CanMEDS are not meant to make us all the same.  They provide a framework to ensure that we all have an understanding of what it means to be a physician and share a common set of skills. From this point we will interpret them through the experiences of our own lives.


In this section we will start by looking at:

  • who you are as a person

  • how you learn best

  • why you wanted to be a physician in the first place

  • the attributes of your ’ideal doctor’



Before we discuss the profession of medicine, we need to consider ...

You as an Individual

As much as we all like to think of ourselves as unique, it is possible to describe people by personality type and learning style. In any group of people, there will be a variety of personality types and learning styles, a group of residents is no exception.


Try the following questionnaires to understand your personality type and learning style.

Personality Type

Who are you as a person?

What is your personality type? click here to find out!



How do you think your personality type fits with your specialty choice? with residency training in general?


After reading the description of your personality type do you think certain physician Roles will feel more comfortable for you than others? Which Roles will be an easier fit for you? How will you enact the ones that feel less natural to you?


What aspects of your chosen specialty fit most easily with your personality type? and which aspects will be more difficult? How do you imagine dealing with the parts of your career that do not come to you naturally?


Learning Style

This quiz may help you to answer the questions below, or you may (after many years in school) have developed your own understanding of how you learn.

Have you ever thought about your learning style?  click here to find out what yours is!


How do you learn? What is your learning style?


What did the quiz tell you that you did not already know?


Will this information change the way you study and learn?


Did your learning style play a role in your specialty choice? Does your residency programme allow you to learn in a way that feels natural to you?


Being a doctor 



 "The Practice of medicine is an art, based on science."- Sir William Osler[1]




  • Who are your role models?

  • What is the ideal physician?

  • What is "good" medicine?

  • Is knowledge of medical literature the most important aspect of being a "good" doctor?

  • Who is the physician that you would choose if you were seriously ill?



Take some time to recall why you decided to go into medicine. Do you remember what you wrote in your admission essay? Do you remember the answers to the questions the interviewers posed to you?


 What factors influenced your choice of residency programme?


1.The following is a list of things that often impact medical students when choosing their career focus. Which of these things are important to you?
lifestyle preferences
personal fit
expected income
prestige in society
prestige among colleagues
longitudinal care
length of residency
hours of practice
on-call schedule
emulate a physician known to me/role model
flexibility at work
flexibility out of work
in-hospital care
urgent care
non-urgent care
community outreach
research opportunities
long-term relationships with patients
short-term relationships with patients
variety of patient problems
demographics of patient population
short-term results
on-going treatments
societal need
career advancement opportunities

Reflecting on why one chose medicine as a career in the first place ican provide perspective, particularly when facing the various challenges of a new residency program. 



The Ideal Physician



Anatole Broyard was  a writer and literary critic for the New York Times. His writings about death and his experience of prostate cancer were published posthumously  in a  short book "Intoxicated by Illness".[2]

The following excerpts describe his ideal physician:



"Now that I know I have cancer of the prostate, the lymph nodes, and part of my skeleton, what do I want in a doctor? I would say that I want one who is a close reader of illness and a good critic of medicine. I cling to my belief in criticism, which is the chief discipline of my own life. I secretly believe that criticism can wither cancer. Also, I would like a doctor who is not only a talented physician, but a bit of a metaphysician, too.  Someone who can treat body and soul. ...I used to get restless when people talked about soul, but now I know better. Soul is the part of you that you summon up in emergencies. don’t need to be religious to believe in souls or to have one. (p.40)

Inside every patient, there’s a poet trying to get out.  .... My ideal doctor would "read" my poetry, my literature.  He would see that my sickness has purified me, weakening my worst parts and strengthening the best.(p. 41)

My ideal doctor.... I want him to  be my Virgil, leading me through my purgatory or inferno, pointing out the sights as we go. (p.42)

My ideal doctor would resemble Oliver Sacks[3]. I can imagine Dr. Sacks entering my condition, looking around at it from the inside like a kind landlord, with a tenant, trying to see how he could make the premises more livable. .... Dr. Sacks would see the genius of my illness. He would mingle his daemon with mine. We would wrestle with my fate together.... (p.43)"



Anatole writes of his "Ideal Physician" in the face of life threatening illness.  As someone engaged in the practice of medicine, how would you define the ideal physician?




Describe your ideal doctor, the one you wanted to go to medical school to become.


Have you been able to become or move toward that ideal physician? What has helped and/or hindered this?


Does the health care system support your effort to be your ideal doctor? What barriers do you experience?


Have the characteristics of the professions' ideal physician changed over time? Why or why not? If so, what forces were of influence?


Have you worked with physicians who resemble your ideal physician? Which of the CanMEDS roles do they embody?

References for this Activity


These are some of the questions that members of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada asked.  Key experts and educators have been trying to define the "ideal physician".  Over the past decade and a half, the attributes of a good physician have been discussed, researched and defined.  These 7 key Roles have been established as characteristics that all physicians should strive to embody.  The Roles have been further clarified and organized into competencies which outline the observable skills and attitudes needed for each of the Roles.


1. Osler W. Aphorisms In: Reynolds R, Stone J, Nixon LL, Wear D. editors. On Doctoring. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc; 2001. p.32-36.

2. Broyard,A.Intoxicated by My Illness. Toronto: Random House;1992.

3. the neurologist who wrote "Awakenings" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat"

All references for this section