Winter School

Winter School

Click here for the Sponsorship Information Brochure, and click here for the promotional poster.

The seventh COMP-organized Canadian Winter School on quality and safety in radiation oncology will take place at the beautiful Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello in Quebec from February 7th to 11th, 2016. The multi-professional organizing committee (see below) has been busy since April of this year planning the event and it’s now starting to take shape. Here are a few tasters of what to expect.

Keynote Speaker - Margaret Murphy

The keynote address will be delivered by World Health Organization Patients for Patient Safety Steering Committee member Margaret Murphy from Ireland. Margaret tragically lost her son Kevin in 1999 as a result of medical misadventure. After a five year battle to find out why Kevin had died, Margaret became involved in the WHO organization Patients for Patient Safety. She has worked tirelessly since then to promote patient safety around the world. COMP and the organizing committee are honoured and delighted that Margaret will travel to Montebello to tell her powerful story and deliver her important message to the Canadian radiation medicine community. Margaret, like most of the faculty members, will be in attendance for the full duration of the four-day Winter School and her insight will no doubt enlighten the many discussions that are anticipated.

Faculty, Format and Curriculum

Although the final format and curriculum of the 2016 Winter School have yet to be solidified, the organizing committee are drafting a schedule that incorporates faculty lectures, workshops led by faculty members and invited patients, and delegate-presented project galleries.


The key quality and safety topics to be covered at the Winter School have been narrowed down to the following:


Good teamwork, particularly in an inter-professional context is vital for quality and safety. The subject comes up regularly as a Winter School topic and it never loses its importance. Dr. Francois Chiocchio from the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa will be the lead faculty on this subject and he is working with the organizing committee to prepare a workshop using implementation of an inter-professional peer review framework as an example project. Dr. Chiocchio is also preparing a set of questionnaires for the COMP membership, the data from which will be discussed and analyzed at the Winter School. A follow-up interACTIONS article in the spring of 2016 is envisaged.

Patient involvement

At the 2015 Winter School, former patient Prof Laurie Hendren from McGill coined the term “schlep” to describe her (non-linear) experience of going through a course of radiotherapy. She, and other 2015 faculty members, including keynote speaker Dr. Jan Davies, highlighted the vital role that patients can and should play in their own care and in the decision-making structures of healthcare institutions. The Winter School organizing committee heard and heeded the message. The committee is pleased to have recruited a number of faculty members and former patients who will explain to the Canadian medical physics and radiation oncology communities why and how full patient involvement can be achieved in our centres.

Jim Conway, adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and former chief operating officer of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute will speak on patient involvement for quality and safety. Jim is a renowned patient safety expert and patient involvement advocate. He will speak about his patient safety leadership experience at the Dana Farber and in particular about the role played by patients in the quality and safety infrastructure there. He will explain why and how the Dana Farber Cancer Institute recruited patients into all decision-making committees.

Karine Vigneault is the recently-recruited patient participation approach coordinator at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. Karine has a PhD in communication from the Université de Montréal. Her role at McGill is to coordinate the recruitment of patients to help improve the practices, programs and policies that concern patient care and services at the MUHC. Karine will explain to the Winter School delegates how to go about inviting patients onto committees and how to train both patients and staff for true patient partnership.

High-reliability organizations

A high-reliability organization is one that has succeeded in achieving none or few adverse events in an environment where the risk and complexity involved would suggest a greater frequency. Veteran Winter School faculty member Todd Pawlicki, physicist, professor, and vice-chair of the Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences at University of California at San Diego will lead a session on high reliability theory. The organizing committee are working to engage another high-profile speaker to partner with Todd for a roundtable discussion on the subject.

The Second victim

Few radiation medicine professionals may know what the term second victim means but some or many of us may have lived through the experience. It refers to the healthcare worker who has been involved in an adverse event and who can suffer him/herself as a result. Does the healthcare institution support staff involved in adverse events? It should. Otherwise, the staff member may become the second victim of the event. The second victim can experience guilt, shame, stress and depression to name but a few emotions. He/she may perform poorly and may adversely affect team morale. Incident reporting is a hot topic in radiation medicine but for it to be effective the staff involved in an incident must feel supported and must feel that they can speak openly in a respectful learning environment without fear of shame or repercussion. Cheryl Connors will speak to the Winter School about the second victim and she will lead a workshop on how to set up a support program. Cheryl is a pediatric nurse manager at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and recognized leader in second victim support.

Quality of medical data

The electronic health record and the record-and-verify database form the backbone of modern medical physics and radiation oncology practice. However, efforts to use electronic health records for quality, safety and research initiatives are often frustrated by poor or incomplete data. As our practice becomes more and more dependent on the data that we store, the importance of the quality of those data is becoming increasingly clear and urgent. Peter Gabriel, MD, M.S.E., Associate Professor of Clinical Radiation Oncology at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine in Philadelphia will speak on the topic of this topic.

Tying it all together

Veteran Winter School faculty member Mona Udowicz, Director of Quality, Safety and Patient Experience for CancerControl Alberta, will weave the thread that joins all the topics of the Winter School. Mona will ensure that the messages of the Winter School faculty are reiterated in a coherent manner and translated into the on-the-ground context of radiotherapy practice such that the delegates will take away practical advice on how to affect real change at their centres.

Come participate in the 2016 Winter School at Montebello or encourage a colleague (physicist, therapist, radiation oncologist or all of the above!) to attend and report back to your centre. The Winter School is a relaxed and collegial multi-professional learning environment where the delegates learn from each other and from the experts. Quality matters - travaillons ensemble !

Important Dates

12 October, 2015: Abstract submission for project gallery presentations opens
3 December, 2015 at 5 pm: Abstract submission deadline extended
Mid December 2015: Abstract review completed
7 January 2016: Deadline for negotiated hotel rate
8 January 2016: Early-bird registration deadline
7 February, 2016: Winter School begins

Montebello, Quebec

Escape from the ordinary and experience a delightful retreat at Fairmont Le Château Montebello, the world’s largest log cabin. Nestled in the heart of the scenic Montebello village, surrounded by nature, the hotel is famed for its rustic yet luxurious accommodations and excellent service.

2016 Organizing Committee

John Kildea, Physicist, McGill University Health Centre (Chair and Course Director)
Carolyn Freeman, MD, McGill University Health Centre
Vicky Huang, Physicist, BC Cancer Agency
Daniel la Russa, Physicist, Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre
Kathryn Moran, Radiation Therapist, Nova Scotia Health Authority
Todd Pawlicki, Physicist, University of California at San Diego
Christiaan Stevens, MD, University of Toronto
Mona Udowicz, Radiation Therapist, CancerControl Alberta

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