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Celebrating 20 Years of Stepping Stones: In Conversation with Julia Lee

This year, CFD is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of our inaugural Stepping Stones program! We recently interviewed Julia Lee, Simulation Educator, Respiratory Therapist, and Stepping Stones grad (2023), about her experience in the program.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your involvement in health professions education.

I’m currently on a contract position covering a parental leave as a Simulation Educator at Unity Health Toronto. I’ve been with the organization since 2005, starting as a respiratory therapist (RT).

I’ve been fortunate in my time here to apply and be successful in various roles in that time such as a research coordinator in the medical-surgical intensive care unit, as an operational readiness champion with the critical care part of the 3.0 redevelopment project, as a community-patient engagement specialist at the Academic Family Health Team at St. Michael’s Hospital and as a person-centre language educator with professional practice.

Coming out of high school, I was lucky to be one of the first groups that was offered a new program – a collaborative program between Queen’s University and the Michener Institute, which allowed me to seek a Bachelor of Life Science and a diploma in Respiratory Therapy together. I was privileged to have my clinical placement as a student respiratory therapist at St. Michael’s Hospital (SMH) in 2004 and have not looked back since. Through both Michener and SMH, I sought other educational opportunities including the Preceptor Workshop at Michener (2013), Teaching for Learning and Collaboration (now Teaching and Learning in the Clinical Context) with the CFD (2013) and enrollment into Stepping Stones (2021).

Q: You’re a recent graduate (2023) of the Stepping Stones program! What drew you to the program?

I thought to myself, “It had been awhile since I’ve done any schooling”, and wanted to do something about it. As part of being an RT, we often have students that we mentor or new hires that we are paired with for orientation. I love teaching and educating and try my best to continuously improve on my skills as an educator. I also found there were various challenges that came with different approaches to learning and teaching and I wanted to continue to develop and be a better educator.

I believe I came upon the Stepping Stones program via an email or our hospital newsletter and looked into it. There were several things that drew me in, to be honest with you. The fees were super reasonable and a steal in my opinion for what you get from it. I liked the flexibility and accessibility of the program and having workshops via Zoom (not to mention the workshops sounded really diverse and engaging!). I find sometimes it’s a bit intimidating to look into more formalized school programs (e.g. Masters programs), but the Stepping Stones program felt low barrier, directly applicable to my clinical work and overall one that would help with my professional growth.

Q: What is a key takeaway you had from your experience in the program?

I’ve learned that wherever anyone is in their path as an educator, whether novice or experienced, with whatever discipline/background they come from, we all have similar struggles and challenges and can learn from one another. I’ve learned that it’s important to keep a growth mindset and be as open minded as you can. It’s not always about what we are teaching to students and learners, but what we can learn from them as well.

Q: What advice might you have for a new health professions educator now that you’ve taken Stepping Stones?

I would tell them that there are many ways to be a good educator, which includes being a lifelong learner.

Through Stepping Stones, I’ve seen the community of practice that was built, and the ones I’ve learned the most from are ones that continue to position themselves as lifelong learners.

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