Janna Ethier was awarded the national Resident Doctors of Canada Award for Service to Resident Doctors. Submitted photo.
Janna Ethier was awarded the national Resident Doctors of Canada Award for Service to Resident Doctors. Submitted photo.

Program admin earns national accolades

Janna Ethier recently received national recognition for her work supporting residents in the Department of Medicine's Core Internal Medicine program.

By Jeanette Neufeld

Walking into her office is a departure from its hospital surroundings. Decorations and plants fill the space, and she is always welcoming. On the right day, she might even offer you a snack.

This open-door policy is only part of why Ethier, a program administrator for the Core Internal Medicine (IM) program at the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) College of Medicine, was recently awarded the national Resident Doctors of Canada (RDoC) Award for Service to Resident Doctors. This award strives to recognize the important role that non-physicians play in residency programs.

“Through my three years here, she’s been a rock,” says Dr. Zach Huschi, one of 2023’s lead residents. Huschi led the award nomination, gathering support from program directors and other program faculty.

“I think often, especially in hospital settings, people don’t get the appreciation for their work that they deserve. I wanted to make sure she got recognized,” says Huschi. “She’s always looking for ways to really make residents’ lives better.”

He cites Ethier’s commitment to resident wellness, including a system change to streamline vacation requests, and an overhauling of the junior night float shift schedule.

Ethier helped to implement a new system of 12-hour, rather than 24-hour shifts, unique among most internal medicine programs across Canada. This change was “really good for resident wellness,” says Huschi.

“She’s been able to innovate and make systems that make everyone’s lives easier. I think that just shows how exceptional she is. She’s always there, her door is always open. She’s always a friendly figure and I think the program is so lucky to have her,” he says.  

Huschi also appreciates that Ethier shares her Métis culture with the residents, including bringing them homemade bannock and jam on exam days.

While Ethier says the decision to share her grandmother’s recipe is motivated mostly by the residents’ appreciation for food of any kind, she believes it’s important for to bring her identity to work and help it to inform change.

One example is the work recently done to change the term “chief resident” to “lead resident” within the Core IM program.

“I try to make sure that it’s something I’m incorporating into what we’re doing, and something we’re openly talking about. I do think there’s a lot of work to do. The department, the university and the province can do better,” she says.

Ultimately, Ethier feels inspired to make changes that improve the program and make it easier for residents to complete their training.

Resident life is “chaos,” says Ethier. “It never lets up, it’s very heavy. It’s confusing.  They show up every day to care for total strangers who walk into their lives, needing help on one of their worst days.  But I think it’s very rewarding. It’s rewarding for me to be a part of that journey as well,” she says.

Ethier joined the Department of Medicine in 2021, after working in healthcare administration in both Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Since joining the department, Ethier has been instrumental in creating flow and organization, says Dr. Jessie Baptiste, Program Director of the Core IM program.

“She has helped me build structure and stability,” says Baptiste. “Being program director, these three years would have been almost impossible without Janna’s support and dedication.”

“Janna has been an incredibly enthusiastic and valuable member of our residency training program. She has done a lot to improve the training and wellbeing of our residents,” says Dr. Julian Tam, a faculty member in the department’s Division of Respirology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine and a member of the residency program committee.

“I appreciate that Janna puts her heart into everything that she does. She cares deeply about her role and often goes above and beyond what is expected of her.”

Huschi says he was “ecstatic” when he found out Ethier received the award. She will be formally recognized at a virtual RDoC award reception on May 23.  

Ethier says she was incredibly honoured by the award and touched by the fact that her champions took time out of their lives to put the award nomination together.

“I’m so happy to know that my work has impacted them in this way, because that was always the intent,” she says.