Department Profile: Dr. Christie Newton

Dr. Christie Newton is a family doctor, a mother and wife, an animal lover, and now, the president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC). As the Associate Head Education and Engagement for the Department of Family Practice, she is also working on a province-wide team-based primary care learning project.

Christie’s appointment as CFPC president comes at one of the most arduous times for family medicine, but she is not one to walk away from a challenge. As she says, “with challenge comes change, and with change comes opportunity for improvement.”

Photo courtesy of med.ubc.ca

Finding Family Medicine

Growing up, Christie’s mother was a teacher and her father was a plastic surgeon, so becoming an academic physician seemed like a natural choice. However, she witnessed the long hours and stresses of her father’s job, so she never wanted to end up in medicine. In university she thought about teaching high school science. After just one introductory visit to a high school, she recognized that commanding a classroom of young people wasn’t something she felt ready for. She decided to continue being the student, so she entered medicine.

Every aspect of medicine has always been fascinating to Christie. While considering how to complete her CaRMS ranking, a senior resident in internal medicine helped her make up her mind with a passing comment: “You’re smart enough to do family medicine. You know enough about everything to be safe.” To this day, Christie remains certain that this person, oblivious to the impact their comment had, changed the trajectory of her life.

Like many, Christie thrives in family medicine because she is a people person who enjoys variety. While she acknowledges the increasing challenge of complexity of care and the system, she finds comfort in being able to follow patients over time to help them manage their health.

Christie’s professional philosophy is connection before content. To her, it makes the most sense to take the time to know the patient, who they are, their lived experience and what’s most important to them, before jumping to a management plan. Building relationships before tackling a problem leads to improved efficiencies and outcomes.

Team-Based Primary Care Learning Centres

To talk to Christie is to get to know a passionate advocate for team-based care. Her interest in this is long-standing. In her words, “there is ample evidence to demonstrate that the model of teams of providers…addresses the quintuple aim: improved access and quality at a lower cost with enhanced patient and provider satisfaction.”

The issue Christie sees with team-based primary care is that it is not necessarily intuitive. While it is gaining acceptance, it is still not the way that most family doctors receive training. In fact, the Department of Family Practice has embarked on a three-year project that aims to start supporting community family physicians in figuring out how to get the most out of their teams, for themselves, their residents and their patients

On a Personal Note

Every day Christie struggles to balance work and life. When she does manage to close the laptop and turn off the notifications, she enjoys doodling and spending time in nature with her proudest achievement: her family. She also finds joy in her pets and between her chihuahua-fox terrier, Guido, and her sun conure, Leo, there is often a special guest appearance during Zoom meetings.

Supporting the Department

“There is lots of change! We are listening, so let us know what you think we need to know. We are optimistic that change will happen and you will be better supported. You may not see us a lot, but it’s because we are working behind the scenes to advocate for them whenever we can with whomever we can with whatever position we have.”

– Christie

Personal Philosophies

As an eternal optimist, Christie connects to the notion that “hope is not the belief that everything is going to turn out fine, it’s the knowledge that everything has meaning regardless of how it turns out.” She recognizes that “there are no powerful people, there are just powerful positions” and hopes to leverage the power of the positions she takes on to make change. With Christie in this department and at the helm of the CFPC, we can look forward to positive change.