PhD candidate receives award for teaching excellence

Image announcing Awards
Awards card

Dr. Shelia Harms, MD, a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education, is the recipient of the prestigious 2020 U21 Health Sciences Group (HSG) Teaching Excellence Award.

The award was established in 2014 by deans of medicine as a way to celebrate and reward exceptional educational scholarship, particularly amongst research intensive universities, across the U21 HSG network. The award also helps to nurture international cooperation, one of U21’s key objectives, by offering faculty from different universities and regions, opportunities to work together on exciting, interdisciplinary projects.

Dr. Sheila Harms

“Questions of learning in academic psychiatry simultaneously require a commitment to a discourse of the mind. It has been through the scholarly work of education that I have found a rich place to encounter thought anew,” says Harms. “This award depends on the possibility for shared educational transactions marked by success and failure alike. For this I am deeply grateful to the many students and educators who have created a generative space for me to engage and explore what it means to have an education in psychiatry. I am honoured to receive this award and the possibilities it opens for ongoing educational transformation.”

Clinically, Harms practices as a child and adolescent psychiatrist at McMaster Children’s Hospital with a focus on general outpatient care. Academically, she is in the role of associate Chair education within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences. She is actively involved in supervising undergraduate and postgraduate learners as well as teaching within the Faculty of Health Sciences. Harms has acted in numerous educational leadership roles within the department, including the program director for postgraduate psychiatry training and has held the role of the inaugural program director for subspecialty training in child and adolescent psychiatry. She is also an active member on the Psychiatry Exam Board for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Harms directs the global mental health initiative in the department which includes leading a long-standing collaboration and novel educational initiative at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Western Uganda, where she also serves on faculty.

Harms is focusing on enhancing educational scholarship activities across the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University. As part of these efforts, she is pursuing a PhD in education at York University under the supervision of Distinguished Research Professor and York Research Chair in Pedagogy and Psycho-Social Transformation, Deborah Britzman. Harms’ dissertation is titled “A different kind of education: Notes from a psychiatrist,” and her focus is on critical histories in psychiatry. She is particularly interested in thinking about medical education using psychodynamic concepts as they are applied to learning, in an attempt to understand educational phenomenology that are both relevant and pressing in contemporary medical education. The dissertation’s themes include studies of uncertainty in learning, difficult knowledge, the role of bodies in the study of the mind and the work of encountering colonialism.

“It is my great pleasure to congratulate Dr. Harms on her illustrious award. The field of psychiatric education, as with any education today, must undergo major transformations and this award recognizes Dr. Harms as one of its creative international innovators,” said Britzman. “Dr. Harms entered the PhD program with a four-year SSHRC and a deep interest in problems of psychoanalytic approaches to education. Her dissertation, ‘A different kind of education: Notes from a psychiatrist’ is a model of humanity and generosity. Dr. Harms continues to distinguish herself as a leading scholar, now by opening psychiatric experience with autoethnographic methods with psychoanalytic sensitivity.”

Harms has been recently elected to the American College of Psychiatrists, the elite scientific college dedicated to professional leadership and highest standards of psychiatry through teaching, education, research and clinical practice.