Dec 9, 2021

Caring through crisis: Personal stories from the frontlines of family medicine

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2021 University of Toronto Family Medicine Report cover

The 2021 University of Toronto Family Medicine Report, launched today by the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM), is a celebration of all those working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic — their stamina, optimism, adaptability and compassion.

Authored by nearly 100 family doctors and primary care providers, the report features personal stories, reflections and anecdotes that represent just a small fraction of the incredible work happening across DFCM, the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario and beyond, as well as data from the University of Toronto Practice Based Research Network (UTOPIAN).

Whether you are a doctor or a patient, a scientist or a student, friend or loved one, no one has escaped COVID-19 unscathed. For family doctors and others on the frontlines, caring through this crisis has been more challenging than anyone could have imagined. Under pressure, these clinicians have risen to the occasion in truly inspiring ways, often making huge personal sacrifices in the service of others.

From Christmas morning in a long-term care home ravaged by COVID-19 to emergency departments converting driveways into field hospitals and 3D-printing disposable stethoscopes, family doctors, learners and primary care colleagues have stepped up with strong and collaborative leadership, passion and urgency.

“Despite the transition to virtual care, overburdened hospitals, remote learning and separation from loved ones, family doctors have kept clinics running and helped communities stay safe while driving forward COVID-19 research and training the next generation of family doctors and health system leaders,” says Dr. Danielle Martin, DFCM Chair and a family doctor and Women’s College Hospital. 

“We’ve seen family medicine teams mobilize massive vaccination efforts, faculty coming together with community leaders to address vaccine hesitancy in underserved communities, and researchers making sense of the fast and furious world of COVID-19 data.”

The personal stories in this report illustrate the many challenges and triumphs of family doctors during the ongoing pandemic. While some of these challenges continue, the stories highlight the strength of family medicine and the importance of building a health system with strong foundations in primary care.

But most importantly, the stories reinforce the value of personal connection between health providers, medical specialities and the communities we serve — as we strive to improve health for all.

The 2021 University of Toronto Family Medicine Report is dedicated to all those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – those who have lost their lives and the lives of loved ones, the family doctors, primary care providers and all those who have made huge personal sacrifices in the service of others, as well as the families and friends who have made these sacrifices possible.