Dr. Sara Awad is an Endocrinologist in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism. She was recently promoted to Associate Professor in July 2023 after starting her faculty position at Queen’s University in August 2017. What you might not know is that Dr. Awad is a thrill-seeker in her spare time and always wants to try a new challenge. “I’m very adventurous. I have been skydiving and I hope to do more as I travel to new places. I’m also glad to say I just completed my first half-marathon this fall – now that was a challenge,” she shares.
This passion for adventure and stepping out of the comfort zone to always try something new is something Dr. Awad has brought to her career throughout her life as she has traveled for school to purse her passion. “I completed my medical school training at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and then I did my Core Internal Medicine Residency at Queen’s. Subsequently, I completed an Endocrinology residency program at the University of Ottawa before starting my faculty position at Queen’s University in Kingston. In 2021, I completed a Masters of Health Professions Education (MHPE) program at the University of Illinois in Chicago,” she says.
Receiving funding from SEAMO by way of a $50,000 Medical Education Development Program (MEDP) fund to cover tuition fees for her MHPE program was a key step in acquiring skills in medical education leadership and research, Dr. Awad explains. “Being able to apply for funding and grants like these has helped me to develop the skills and grow as an early career physician; and having the opportunity to apply in the future will only help me continue to grow and develop my skills in medical education leadership and research at Queen’s University,” she explains.
Dr. Awad runs a specialized Endocrinology clinic as well as her general Endocrinology practice. She says, “I run a Thyroid Cancer clinic as well as Thyroid Nodule biopsy clinic at the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario. I also run an advanced diabetes technology clinic for type 1 diabetics and a combined Neuro-pituitary clinic with neurosurgeon Dr. Ryan Alkins to improve perioperative care to patients with pituitary tumors. I also cover diabetes in pregnancy clinics and internal medicine clinical teaching units and endocrinology consults at Kingston General Hospital.”
In the realm of medical education contributions to Queen’s University, Dr. Awad is the Associate Director of the Core Internal Medicine Residency program, leading the design, implementation and review of the residency curriculum, including academic-half days, junior boot camps and patient safety and quality improvement rounds. “I also review and work with the medicine and endocrinology programs to improve the personal learning plans use and implementation by residents as mandated by the Royal College for CBME programs,” she explains.
Dr. Awad’s research is based in her drive to better medical education as she shares her main interests: “In addition to my interest in curriculum development, I am also interested in how to develop self-regulated learning skills, which includes goal setting and self-reflection in our residents, an important skill to develop during residency and translate to independent practice. It also includes using personal learning plans as a potentially effective tool for self-regulation. My MHPE thesis research was about identifying the barriers and enablers of the use and implementation of personal learning in a Competency-Based Internal Medicine residency program through residents’ and academic advisors’ lens.” In terms of clinical research, Dr. Awad shares she is collaborating with colleagues in different specialties on few projects. “In collaboration with Neurosurgery, we are working on ICES database, looking at the use of radiotherapy in patients with recurrent or residual pituitary tumors and the long-term side effects of radiotherapy compared to pituitary surgery. I am also working with Dr. Naji Touma from Urology on a retrospective review of quality care received by patient with functional and nonfunctional adrenal tumors and how can we improve collaborative and perioperative care moving forward”.
In her experience, Dr. Awad has one myth she wishes to debunk about Endocrinology. “I want patients to know ‘natural’ hormone therapies are not always healthier than synthetic hormones. Many natural hormone therapies are animal derived extracts and not regulated by the FDA and sometimes they have more risks than the synthetic hormones. I always encourage patients to check with their physicians first and trust they are following the best evidence-based medicine to recommend safe and human recombinant hormone replacement therapies,” she says.
The future of the field of Endocrinology is bright, Dr. Awad shares, and is particularly exciting for the future of advanced diabetes treatments. “The biggest breakthrough is the rapidly developing diabetes technologies including insulin pump and sensor-based technologies such as continuous glucose monitors. With this field that is advancing and technologies coming out quickly I hope Canadian healthcare systems approve these devices faster and patients get more coverage from the provincial government. These are expensive devices, but they transformed the lives of patients’ living with type-1 diabetes.”
If you’re looking for Dr. Awad in Kingston, she can be found cycling, running, or enjoying a good Americano with an extra shot of espresso in a local café. “I’m a bit of a coffee snob, that’s the other thing people don’t know about me. Sens is my favorite café in Kingston, so getting me a good cup of Americano coffee is all what am asking for.”