Dec. 1, 2020

Christian Farrier becomes UCalgary’s 19th Rhodes Scholar

Cumming School of Medicine alumnus is among 11 Canadians to receive a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford next year

Dr. Christian Farrier, MD’20, has spent much of his life interacting with our health system as either a patient, family support person or student. Since he started as a student at the University of Calgary, he has immersed himself in the field of health care and has constantly looked for ways to impact health systems to improve patient outcomes.

He served as a patient adviser to promote patient- and family-centred care, informed clinical ethics education regarding medical assistance in dying, and he became the youngest Canadian Certified Patient Experience Professional in Canada. His dedication and commitment to patients and their families is the primary reason he was awarded a 2021 Rhodes Scholarship.

“Health care is integral to my story and identity,” says Farrier. “Our journey through the health care system started with my brother, who was born clinging to life at just under 23 weeks of gestation in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). He had to endure multiple surgeries and countless specialist appointments, but today he is a successful software engineer.

My encounters with health care were largely as a sibling until I had major surgery as a teenager leading to a one-week hospital admission and a three-month recovery. It was then that I experienced the true vulnerability of being a patient and the critical value of humanity in health care, inspiring my career.

Farrier, a Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) alumnus, and currently a paediatrics resident, has already internalized important lessons that shape how he sees the patient-physician relationship. "I have been deeply affected by being present for one of the most difficult aspects of a medical career: when children die, both in the emergency department and PICU. I witnessed the extreme agony of the parents, and also how these deaths impacted all the members of our health-care team including the most senior staff. We cried as we supported each other in the aftermath," he says.

"These experiences, although difficult, stand out as some of the most worthwhile and meaningful I have experienced as a doctor-in-training. I understand as a patient and as a physician the incredible value of connection.”

Farrier's appreciation for the complexity of care extends beyond the patient. Learning during the current pandemic has also given him insight into the broader health system. “As we are witnessing in 2020, health crises and issues in the provision of health services impact the world on a global scale necessitating global collaboration,” he says.

“I have witnessed first-hand the tendency of physicians and health-care systems to look for solutions at a local level, leading to duplication of work and lost opportunities to collaborate with others. Although individual care of patients is integral to medicine, I believe leadership and research are critical to the delivery of exceptional paediatric health care.”

Farrier is thankful for many mentors, including Dr. Tom Noseworthy, MD, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences and member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the CSM. Farrier and Noseworthy have worked on various projects since 2015. Farrier credits Noseworthy with exposing him to the possibilities and power of research to shape our health care system to improve the health outcomes of Canadians.

Noseworthy sees great potential in the future of the Rhodes Scholar. No other undergraduate student has impressed me to the same extent as Christian Farrier," says Noseworthy. "He exudes caring and compassion, with an unassuming air of confidence. His impact will be far-reaching."

UCalgary’s Scholars Academy — a program that supports and challenges high-achieving students to dream bigger and reach higher — was also an important part of Farrier’s undergraduate experience. “It enabled me to connect with some incredible peers from a variety of disciplines on campus,” he says. “Many became great friends, and it was through these connections and the excellent mentorship and academic advising that I had my first exposure to the Rhodes Scholarship.” 

“It’s been a pleasure meeting with Christian over the years,” says Dr. Jessica Cohen, PhD, who leads the program. “Like many of his colleagues, he is ambitious, compassionate and engaged in all his pursuits. We are fortunate to count him as part of the Scholars Academy community.”

What's Farrier hoping to achieve during his time at Oxford? “I'm excited to combine clinical practice with research and leadership roles to bridge patient care with the goal of improving global care for children," he says. "I believe the University of Oxford and the Rhodes Scholarship will enable me to unify my clinical practice with my desire to improve the way we deliver care both locally and globally through co-ordinated leadership and systemic change."

Rhodes Scholarships in Canada and the Rhodes Trust recently announced the Class of 2021 Canadian Rhodes Scholars, who will arrive at Rhodes House at the University of Oxford in autumn 2021. The 11 Canadian Rhodes Scholars join a class of over 100 from more than 60 countries worldwide to study at Oxford University next year. There have been 19 Rhodes Scholarship awarded to University of Calgary students including:

Braden O’Neill, MD’15

Aravind Ganesh MD’12

Yan Yu, MD 14

Bogdan Knezevic, BSc’15

James Thorogood, BSc’16

Emily Boucher, BHSc’19

Manpreet Deol, BSc’20

Rahul Arora, BHSc‘19