Rural medicine, education and teaching have been lifelong passions for Dr. James Rourke.
Throughout his career, the St. John’s physician has been a great ambassador for those in the medical community and is well known nationally and internationally for his leadership in developing rural medical education.
His passion is in primary care and the importance of working in a team environment with other health-care professionals and it has been said by many of his peers and colleagues his contributions serve as an inspiration to them.
In fact it was just the opposite.
“So much of leadership is finding the right people. I have always said you have to have the room be smarter than you and harness that group to move it forward,’’ he said.
“To get the room to work, you have to bring perspective together and when it happens, it’s magical.”
He was honoured on Friday night in Montreal by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the Foundation for Advancing Family Medicine (FAFM) as the 2017 Calvin L. Gutkin Family Medicine Ambassador Award.
“This is an emotional thing for me. It just came out of the blue,’’ Rourke said Friday following a lunch date with Gutkin, with whom he has worked for decades.
“There are so many people here that are deserving of this honour, so many people that I, and my wife Leslie, have worked with. It has been because of her support and so made others that made this possible.”
Rourke served as Dean of the Faculty Medicine at Memorial University from 2004-2016. He also served as chair of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada from 2009-11 and of the Canadian Medical Forum from 2011-16.
The Calvin L. Gutkin award recognizes a dynamic leader in Canadian family medicine distinguished for their vision, innovation and relationship building with organizations that support and positively influence the ever-changing role of the family physician. Gutkin, also served as the executive director and chief executive officer of the CFPC from 1999 to 2012.
“What I saw in Dr. Gutkin is someone who could speak forthright about an issue without being antagonistic,’’ Rourke said of his friend.
“He didn’t antagonize anyone or put anyone down.”
How it began
Rourke grew up on a farm and attended a one-room rural public school in Ontario and said he has always felt a close connection to rural communities and the needs of the people there. He was an active rural family physician (including obstetrics and emergency work) in Goderich, Ont., for 25 years with his wife and partner, Dr. Leslie Rourke.
Their practice was one of the University of Western Ontario Rural Family Medicine teaching sites.
Since moving to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2004, Rourke has travelled extensively throughout the province and in New Brunswick to visit the medical school’s teaching sites. This included visits to conduct medical clinics in rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.
He has received many honours and awards in his career including the CFPC’s Donald I. Rice Award in 2000 and the W. Victor Johnston Oration in 2007.
His significant impact includes his work in the discipline of family medicine as a practitioner, medical educator, researcher and health-care leader.