Jocelyn Lockyer | ‘Unlikely career’ in medical education earns national honour

Growing up in a small pulp mill community in northwestern Ontario, Jocelyn Lockyer never dreamed she would one day become an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

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Doug Ferguson, for the Cumming School of Medicine

Growing up in a small pulp mill community in northwestern Ontario, Jocelyn Lockyer never dreamed she would one day become an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

“Some of the people who have been named to fellowships include Louise Arbour, who served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,” says Jocelyn, who is the senior associate dean, education, for the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).

Other past recipients range from Romeo Dallaire, who served as Major-General of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, to senior scientists, medical leaders, and governor generals of Canada, she says.

Along with three other people, Jocelyn is to receive the honour at a formal ceremony on Oct. 20. “You know, growing up in Dryden, you don’t actually see yourself as following these Canadian heroes,” she says.

As a child, Jocelyn didn’t imagine becoming a university professor. “You saw school teachers and nurses as female professionals,” she says. “I had an unlikely career trajectory.”

Dryden is a community of 7,749 people that is the smallest city in Ontario. “It was a good match for my father, who was an optometrist, and a good place to raise a family,” says Jocelyn.

Her father stressed the importance of getting a university education. Jocelyn originally wanted to be an urban planner. As part of that goal, she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1973 from the University of Waterloo.

“But I got bored with the theoretical stuff, and I couldn’t see a job in it at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “I really wanted to do something practical, which is why I did a masters in health administration at the University of Ottawa in 1975.”

She became an administrative assistant at what is now the CSM in 1977. Being part of a new medical school meant Jocelyn was able to enjoy a wide range of roles.  “I think probably the complexity and the role differentiation today would make it very difficult for somebody to replicate what I did,” she says.

Besides creating innovative programs to support learners throughout their medical education and into practice, she helped design, test and implement new ways of assessing physicians, helping them understand how well they are doing.

She has become a world-renowned expert in these fields, generating more than 175 peer-reviewed publications on medical education. Jocelyn earned a PhD in Education at the University of Calgary in 2002.

As a professor in the department of community health sciences, she has helped directly supervise and train numerous graduate students as they earned their degrees. They have gone on to play prominent roles in everything from quality assurance to educational program development in the medical, nursing and veterinary medicine professions.

“It’s really exciting to watch them grow,” says Jocelyn. “You take them through their research project and see them write it up as their thesis, and you think, ‘Wow, what incredible growth and development.’”

But after 40 years, her career is about to wind down. She plans to take a one-year sabbatical in June to work with provincial and national groups to do work in the area of physician assessment and feedback, after which she will be retiring from the CSM in 2018.

Tidbits from Jocelyn 

What would you like people to know about the work that you did at the faculty: It’s about recognizing the importance of education within the CSM – that there is a theoretical and research space that needs to be integrated into our work. We must prioritize education in the same way that we prioritize research.

What advice would you give to incoming faculty members: Work hard and find mentors – and that’s “mentors,” plural, because you need people who can help you with your life balance as well as your research and your teaching, and those are going to be very different people.

Where would you like to see the CSM in the next 50 years: I think the CSM and its faculty just have to continue to seize the opportunity, hold their breath, and go.