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Who We Are: Dr. Marc Sawyer

Assistant Clinical Professor
Site Director, Waterloo Regional Campus

“Medicine is interesting. I find people more interesting.”

Making medicine about learning

For Dr. Marc Sawyer, medicine is about learning and then passing those lessons along.

Both his parents taught high school, but Marc became a teacher later in his career, as a family doctor coaching family medicine residents. He counts himself fortunate.

“The science of medicine is interesting. I find people more interesting,” he says. “Teaching also builds skills in leadership and professionalism that I wouldn’t encounter in my practice.”

Marc is site director for the Kitchener satellite campus of the McMaster University Department of Family Medicine. He sets up placements for 34 family medicine residents, who gain experience working with practicing doctors in obstetrics, emergency medicine, psychiatry, internal medicine and pediatrics.  Once residents are placed, he helps the doctors – who volunteer their time – take the students from book learning to best practices, helping patients, day by day. He offers a learning experience for both residents and mentors.

“I tell students it’s okay not to know, that this learning isn’t a two year process, it’s life-long. You want them to graduate confident and safe and committed to learning over the course of their career.”

Work ethic

His parents’ dedication as high school teachers left him open to a teaching experience, Marc says.

“I remember my mother at her desk at night, a stack of papers this high,” he recalls, hand poised inches above the desktop.

His parents’ work ethic was passed to their two sons, and much was expected in terms of both academic achievement and community service. He finished his undergraduate degree in science and business at Waterloo University and McMaster medical school in 2006.

After his residency with McMaster Family Practice in 2008, he returned home to Waterloo, where he and wife Stephanie had grown up.

Along with recruiting physicians to volunteer their time as mentors, his work often draws on skills of persuasion and diplomacy, stepping in when students are struggling in a placement.

“At the beginning we had some difficulty recruiting our specialist teachers among busy local doctors,’’ he says.

“But now it’s an expectation that you support new doctors coming in. We’re watching people we taught get into teaching.”

McMaster University Department of Family MedicineMichael G. DeGroote School of Medicine