American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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A generalist and educator marks 20 years of ACP Fellowship

From the November ACP Internist, copyright 2009 by the American College of Physicians

By Stacey Butterfield

Linda S. Snell, FACP

Age: 57.

Occupation: Professor and vice-chair of education in McGill University’s department of medicine and senior clinician educator, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Canada.

Dr. Snell

Dr. Snell



Current residence: Montreal, Canada.

Hometown: Born in England, raised in Edmonton, Canada.

Family: Married, no kids, one cat.

Education: Medical degree from University of Alberta; Master’s of Health Professions Education, University of Illinois, Chicago.

Residency: General internal medicine, McGill University.

Something I wish I’d learned in medical school: Time management.

I became an internist because: I really love the thought processes that go into making a diagnosis and coming to a clinical decision. As well, I find the diversity and variety of internal medicine very stimulating. It’s not something you can become bored with, both in terms of the clinical aspects and the other things, non-clinical, you can do education, leadership.

First job: Rotating intern and, later on, staff physician at a small community hospital associated with McGill University. I think that really helped me solidify some good clinical habits. It was a setting where the primary physicians had a very good relationship with the consulting physicians. I think that doesn’t happen as much in a larger academic institution.


“I really love the thought processes that go into making a diagnosis and coming to a clinical decision.”
—Linda S. Snell, FACP


Most rewarding aspect of my job: Seeing people learn. It’s when you see the light bulb go on and somebody actually gets it.

Most meaningful professional accomplishment: Getting my master’s in education. It opened all sorts of doors to me.

Future goals: To contribute to the art and science of health professions education, particularly in the area of learning about the skills and attitudes needed to be a good doctor.

Hardest medical lesson: Early on in my career, I sometimes stuck to a diagnosis when I should have kept an open mind to other possibilities. One of the things I really try to do now is always ask myself, “What else it could be?”

Most important change I’ve seen in medicine in the past 20 years: The return of generalism to internal medicine.

Pet peeve: People who are set in their ways.

Favorite ways to spend free time: Travel, the outdoors (depending on the season sailing, skiing, gardening, hiking, you name it), and cooking.

Favorite author: I’m an omnivore in my reading and also in my music listening.

Books on your nightstand: Just finished reading a book about Picasso’s Guernica and the Second World War. I’m also reading a book about Shakespeare’s son-in-law who was a physician in Stratford, learning about descriptions of illnesses in the 1600s.

Item you can’t live without: My BlackBerry. I was somebody who dissed people walking around with their BlackBerrys until I got one. I hate to admit it, but it helps me manage my life.

Biggest regret: I don’t have the time I would like to keep up with people.

If I weren’t a physician, I would be: Three possibilities: a restaurant chef, or I might have sailed around the world, or I might have been a marine biologist. But deep down I knew for a long, long time I was going to be a doctor.

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