By Andrea Di Ubaldo
Perched high on the wall, as if keeping watch over Dr. Robert J. Herman’s office, is his 2008 Canadian Society of Internal Medicine (CSIM) Osler Award.
As is etched on the wooden plaque, the CSIM Osler Award is “in recognition of excellence in the field of General Internal Medicine in clinical practice, research, medical education, specialty development or health promotion.” Herman was presented with the annual award at the CSIM Annual Scientific Meeting’s gala dinner this past October.
“I feel very honoured because it’s the highest award that you can get from your colleagues (in the field of general internal medicine),” Herman says with an air of humility, looking a little embarrassed. He was nominated for the award by fellow colleagues here at the University of Calgary.
Herman joined the Faculty of Medicine in 2000 as a professor and head of the Division of General Internal Medicine. He is an active physician at Foothills Medical Centre, Peter Lougheed Centre and Rockyview General Hospital.
“What I value most is being a physician and being involved in research and education,” he says. “General internal medicine is about looking after sick people, helping them get better and managing their illness.”
Herman realizes it’s the support from co-workers, family, students and those before him that help make him successful in his field.
“It’s not just one person that contributes. We grow on the accomplishments of the people before us,” Herman says.
Herman was nominated for the award by fellow colleagues at UCalgary because he is a highly respected clinician and educator who is dedicated to his patients, clinical and academic teaching. As well, he is a researcher with ongoing publications and an ambassador for general internal medicine locally, regionally and nationally.
Herman’s leadership of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Alberta Health Services and at UCalgary has led to its expansion resulting in a five-fold increase in ambulatory clinic visits and a tripling of the number of full-time academic internists.
The development of a new general internal medicine inpatient unit, a second internal medicine consultation service, teaching units at all hospital sites in Calgary, an internal medicine training program for foreign medical graduates and the placement of an internist in the emergency room to aid patient flow are also among his many contributions.
Busy planning the Rocky Mountain American College of Physicians Internal Medicine meeting in Banff in mid November, Herman doesn’t take a break from all things Osler award worthy – educating, developing and promoting his specialty. He has been Chair of the organizing committee for the past eight years and has been part of the move to evolve general internal medicine as a specialty for it to gain more respect in health care.
“I am particularly proud of this specialty because it’s come a long way in the last 10 years. People thought it would disappear,” he says. “Now we have three to six fellows training every year at UCalgary. It’s changing across Canada to become a major specialty.”