posted on Jan. 8: Psychologist named chairholder in patient-centred health care


The well-being of patients will be the focus of research conducted under the auspices of the new Jack Laidlaw Chair in Patient-Centred Health Care at McMaster University.

The endowed chair is being supported by a $2-million dollar gift from Bill and Joyce Young, a portion of which is being administered by the Hamilton Community Foundation.

The research goals also include improving communication between health providers, patients and their families.

The chair is named in honour of Jack Laidlaw, a former dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and chair of the Department of Medicine, as well as a leading scientist in the field of endocrinology.

His concern for patients led him to focus on patient-centred care, communications with patients and between health professionals, supportive care for cancer patients and the education of future health care providers.

“The generosity of the Young family will be felt by many patients and their families,” said Carolyn Milne, president of the Hamilton Community Foundation. “Through the establishment of this innovative chair, the body of scholarship on patient-centred health care will be advanced across disciplines and will ultimately demonstrate the professional legacy of Dr. Laidlaw – that expert technical care can and should be integrated with humane care.”

John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, noted, “Dr. Laidlaw continually reminded students and his peers that their job entailed caring for patients, not just treating a disease. The McMaster approach to medical education was founded on teaching not only the technology, but also the humanity of medicine, and innovation in education continues to be a hallmark of the Faculty.”

Charles E. Cunningham, a professor of psychiatry & behavioural neurosciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences, is the first chairholder. He is a psychologist in the Children's Hospital at Hamilton Health Sciences.

Since coming to McMaster in 1977, Cunningham has been involved in the development and evaluation of services for children with a wide variety of behavioral and developmental problems.

As the research and program development leader of the Child and Family Centre's Community Education Service, he has a special interest in large group models which increase the availability of services and maximize cost effectiveness, community-based programs which reduce the barriers limiting access to services and processes which enable families to participate actively in the planning and evaluation of the services they receive.

Cunningham's most recent service development and research activities have focused on the school-based Community Parent Education Program (COPE) workshops which encourage groups of parents to work collaboratively, school-wide violence prevention programs which engage students in the reduction of playground conflict and computer- supported interviewing processes which help families connect quickly to the knowledge they feel will be most helpful in understanding and helping their children.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the Young family, the selection committee and the Faculty of Health Sciences for this exciting and challenging opportunity to contribute to a great tradition of patient-centred health care, education, and research here at McMaster University,” said Cunningham.

“It will be a special privilege to hold this chair which honours Dr. Jack Laidlaw's many contributions to patient care, health sciences education and research.”

He added: “Over the next five years I plan to work closely with my colleagues to advance the education regarding patient-centred health care models, focus on the impact of patient-centred health care approaches on health outcomes and patient experiences in the health service delivery system, improve care by participating in the design of innovative services and advance the field by continuing my own research on service delivery models.”

University President Peter George said the chair will ensure that “Jack Laidlaw's work and his interests are carried on at McMaster.

“Dr. Charles Cunningham is an excellent choice for this chair. He will expand on Jack's legacy by bringing with him a vast amount of dedication, knowledge and skill in communications research and management and an outstanding reputation for family-centred clinical practice.”