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Remembering John Premi, a pioneer of continuing medical education

The McMaster University community is remembering John Premi, a professor emeritus in the Department of Family Medicine and a pioneer of continuing medical education, who passed away on February 19, 2021 at the age of 90.

Premi was a devoted family physician in Hamilton and held many leadership positions in the medical community, including Chair and Assistant Dean of Continuing Medical Education in the Faculty of Health Sciences and director of the Charlton Family Practice Unit affiliated with St. Joseph’s Hospital.

After growing up in Port Colborne, Premi attended medical school at University of Toronto and interned at the Hamilton General Hospital. John Premi and his wife eventually settled in Hamilton where they raised their family.

Carl Moore, professor emeritus, Department of Family Medicine recalls that Premi was an active family doctor in Hamilton before the department was founded. Then in the 1970s, Premi joined the Department as a full-time faculty member and became the first director of the Family Practice Unit affiliated with St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Over the course of his career, Premi developed a focus on the improvement of medical education at all levels. He pioneered the Problem Based Small Group (PBSG) Learning Program.

“In the late 1980s, John had a vision of an innovative approach to the continuing education of family doctors by forming peer learning groups in their own communities,” said Jacqui Wakefield, professor emeritus in the Department of Family Medicine.

“His influence was so profound that many of the early members referred to the program as ‘the Premi Groups’,” added Wakefield.

Premi continued at the helm of the PBSG until his retirement in 2002, at which point the program was well established.

The program has continued to flourish, and as of fall 2020 it enrolled over 6,000 members across Canada.

Allyn Walsh, professor emeritus, Department of Family Medicine worked with Premi in the late 80s at the Family Practice Unit at the former Henderson General Hospital.

“He was certainly the wise elder of the physicians there at the time. If I needed advice on how to handle a problem, be it clinical or educational, John was who I sought out,” said Walsh.

 

DFM Group Photo, 1976
Back row: Cliff Reid, Tony Dixon, Ross Parker, Niven Thompson, Vince Rudnick, Ted Evans, John Hay; Middle row: Ray Gilbert, John Feightner, Jacqui Wakefield, Carl Moore, Doug Wilson, John Shearman, John Premi, John Hay; Front row: Ron McAuley, Ivan Bracalenti, Bill Seidelman, Dick Barry, Jack Marlow, Sam Costley.
John Premi (far right, kneeling) and other Henderson Family Practice Unit members, 1989
John Premi (far right, kneeling) and other Henderson Family Practice Unit members, 1989
McMaster University Department of Family MedicineMichael G. DeGroote School of Medicine