Ian Renwick McWhinney

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 05 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7450
  1. Barbara Kermode-Scott
  1. kermodeb{at}

English general practitioner recognised in Canada as the “father of family medicine”

“If we could all just learn to listen, everything else would fall into place. Listening is the key to being patient centred.”1

Ian McWhinney was a general practitioner born in Burnley, Lancashire, who emigrated to Canada in 1968 and became known as the founding father of family medicine in Canada. McWhinney’s A Textbook of Family Medicine,2 which described and defined the principles and practices of family medicine as a separate and distinct field of practice, has been used worldwide in the medical education of family doctors.

Ian McWhinney was not a big man physically, and was quite frail in his later years, but he possessed a huge intellect and spirit. A student of history and literature, he was also a humble and thoughtful observer of the world, medicine, and human nature. It would be no exaggeration to say that his personal thoughts on general practice and patient care inspired physicians and students globally. When he died, tributes were paid to him from across Canada, as well …

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