DoM Update re: COVID-19

Mar 18, 2020
Gillian Hawker

Dear Department of Medicine Colleagues, 

As the COVID-19 crisis changes day by day, I hope you are all keeping well.

I think I can say on behalf of the entire City of Toronto, we are extremely grateful to and proud of your response to this situation. Your devotion to patient care and to each other is a testament to you all. I’ve said this many times, and I will say it again: it is truly impressive what our department can do at the turn of a dime. You are caring, brilliant, adaptable, resilient and truly innovative people. While other professions are being asked to scale back and stay home, you are stepping up and showing your leadership on the front lines.

Thank you.

I have hesitated to fill your email inboxes with more email; I know you are receiving oodles of information, which is sometimes conflicting. The Vice-Chairs and I are in close contact with your PICs, DDDs and the hospital TAHSN leaders as the COVID-19 situation evolves. TAHSN, the university and our affiliated hospitals are working diligently to keep on top of messaging and ensure ‘one voice,’ but with the rapidly changing situation, this is easier to say than do.

In brief, this is the current situation in the Department of Medicine as of March 18, 2020:

For all University of Toronto updates related to COVID-19, please click here.
For all Faculty of Medicine updates, please click here.

Daily Departmental Work

Department staff have been asked to work at home as per University recommendations. They can be contacted via email. They are working closely with their faculty leaders from afar.

All in-person activities have been postponed, are taking place online, or have been cancelled. If you have any questions about a particular activity, please let me know.

Our finance team is working remotely and will ensure essential payments continue. All requests for reimbursement should be signed electronically and sent via email to and

Requests for signatures from me should also be via email and sent to

With thanks to Jen Levi, Michael McDonald and Shiphra Ginsburg, our CFAR team, and our committee members, CFAR is proceeding using an alternate format.

Promotions for 2021 are still moving ahead, though we will be pushing the deadlines back a bit to give everyone some breathing space. The Provost may shift deadlines on their end, but we have no information to share on that yet.

Teaching & Education

All teaching sessions, including rounds and journal clubs, have been cancelled or moved to an online format. The Master-Teacher Program is proceeding using an online format.

Medical students have been relieved of clinical responsibilities and are on leave. The Faculty of Medicine has provided more information here.  

Residents should be working as per their program assignments. If there is a need to interrupt these rotations to enable COVID-19 coverage, this will come at the request of the hospital(s) to the Department. We will ask the relevant program(s) to assist in meeting the requested need for help. Any deployment will take into consideration any risks to the resident, due to underlying illness, pregnancy or any other concerns, on a one-by-one basis. Please click here for the latest messages from PGME.

Moonlighting is not being halted at this time as we are aware that many of our residents provide essential care through this activity. However, as the situation evolves, this may have to be considered. We ask that you accept no new contracts at this time and report to your Program Director what current activities you are doing, if relevant, so that we can plan.

In every decision that is made, we will take into consideration any impact to your wellbeing. If you consider yourself at higher than normal risk to COVID-19 and you are concerned about the clinical activities you are being asked to undertake, please speak with your PIC, division head or Program Director.

If you have ongoing questions or concerns related to teaching and education, please direct them to our Vice-Chair, Education at


We very recently appointed Lisa Richardson the DoM Vice-Chair of Culture & Inclusion. This role will extend to the Wellness portfolio and will include developing resources for our faculty and learners. In the meantime, questions or concerns related to wellness can be directed to She is also sharing a wealth of resources and information on her Twitter feed, @RicharLisa.

We are currently working with our colleagues in the Psychiatry and at the Faculty of Medicine to formalize support for faculty – more on this in the next day or two. Please also see the WHO document on Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak, which provides information for the general population, healthcare workers and leaders, those at risk and those in isolation. 

I would also like to highlight the PGME Wellness Resources that are available to our residents and fellows. Please click here to access these resources.

Research & Other Scholarly Activities

Changes to on-campus research activities, such as labs at MSB, are ongoing. Please contact our Vice-Chair, Research at or if you have any questions or concerns.


We will continue to monitor this situation and follow the advice of the University of Toronto and the Faculty of Medicine. For the most up-to-date information from the Faculty of Medicine and the University of Toronto, please visit:

All faculty members must adhere to the recommendations of their hospital(s) with respect to clinical activities, research and teaching/education. I will provide brief updates to you as matters evolve. At this time, the TAHSN hospitals expect asymptomatic physicians returning from travel overseas to return to work without a period of self-isolation. We are aware that the OMA recommendation remains to self-isolate and we are working with the OMA and others to clarify as soon as possible.

If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.
So proud of you. So grateful for you.

Keep well,

Dr. Gillian Hawker
Sir John and Lady Eaton Professor & Chair of Medicine