Farewell Newsletter from Xavier Montalban

May 14, 2020

First and last from Xavier Montalban

When I started my journey as Director of the Division of Neurology almost 3 years ago I was determined to write a monthly newsletter and I must admit I have been regrettably unable to accomplish this task.

It may seem inappropriate now that I am moving back to Barcelona but I have the need to write my first and last, still short, newsletter.

Supporting teaching activities and promoting the city-wide concept of UofT in relation not only to teaching but also clinical care and research have always been the main driving forces behind all that I did. The goal of this mission, has become exponentially more tangible, although I understand that much more has still to be done, the cultivation of the Division has proven that this goal attainment can be properly facilitated through strong team cohesion and effort.

We had many exciting events over these years, many of them already ongoing when I arrived in Toronto, such us the Silversides Day and the Summer Social Event. We renamed the Richardson/Lang Day (previously JC Richardson Day) to honor my distinguished predecessor Dr. Tony Lang, whose talk on PSP was the most well-attended ever. We organized the 2018 Toronto Neurology Update, that has been held for over 25 years, and this was an overwhelming success. In 2019 we had the first City-Wide Neurology Grand Rounds via Zoom. We anticipated the COVID era and we pushed this activity to be online. We have also supported in different ways a number of activities, such as the International MS Preceptor, the resident-led initiative NIRVE Rounds at World Federation of Neurology, Women in Neurology (work life balance) and the Brill Chair for Headache. We have implemented as well a number of team building activities, such as the PGY1 welcome event, the faculty holiday and the residents and the fellows holiday dinners, the latter being an opportunity for residents and fellows to come together in an informal setting. We have established city-wide fellowship programs on multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular diseases and hopefully the Division will be able to increase the number and the subspecialties of these teaching opportunities. We have finished our Strategic Plan that by itself it was quite a stimulating process with 3 very productive hives. I do believe that the Division has the most keen interest and that we have a clear path to develop in the next future.

I have been very lucky to be able to meet with over 50 faculties in their own hospitals and it has been a terrific experience for me. To understand legitimate needs, fears and ambitions is really key to the Division success. The interaction with residents has been really motivating for me, still I do remember the first Professor Rounds in which I participated: the level of knowledge, motivation and positive attitude were absolutely remarkable. I do truly believe that UofT neurology residents are the best ones and the good thing is that they are ready to get even better. I am also inspired by our fellows, many of whom come from far away, trying to settle in a different country and culture and still working hard and efficiently. Not to mention the recognized standing of my peers at the Division, quite intimidating I have to say. I should thank all of you but let me be unfair and mention a few: thanks Winnie, Dave, Hans, David, Tony, Sandra, Morris, Vera, Brian, Antonio and Gillian. I am most grateful for your continued support.

Probably I shouldn’t give any advice but let me share with you what I am sincerely convinced of. Speaking in the plural, you probably can´t do anything great alone. Be generous to your colleagues, be respectful and emphatic towards everyone. Think big, don’t be too pragmatic, if this means to be too conservative, and let go of your dreams and aspirations. As somebody once said: “I don't believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time ... It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time."

Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced to a number of difficult decisions, including mine, and I would very much like to thank you for your support, guidance and encouragement during my time at UofT.

I am sure that the next DDD will be much better and will masterfully conduct the strategic plan that you designed.  I wish you well during this challenging time and hope everyone stays safe.