James Hanley
Dept of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health
Faculty of Medicine


Introductory remarks and TIME SENSITIVE instructions from JH
  • WHY?

    Having seen me present at our public (and ultimately televised) lecture series on epidemiology last Fall, Dr Pekau asked me to give one of the lectures in your Concordia seminar. I was happy to accept, and I look forward to doing so and to meeting you. I did ask what the purpose of the seminar was, and how much guidance and practice you get before you have to hand in your presentation at the end of the course. It seems that your main preparation for it is by passively observing the performance of the speakers he has invited.

    I am a big believer in the 'see one, do one, teach one' learning format, and so I proposed that my session should explicitly emphasize, and sensitize you to, what makes for good communication, both in writing and in spoken material. You can read in my piece about what I was NOT taught in graduate school. As I look back, I would change what manager Yogi Berra said, 'baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical' to 'our profession is 120% communication and the other 25% is technical'. I don't think it's enough to just being given written feedback at the end of the course or just being told you work was given a pass, without ever having practiced ahead of time. A trainee surgeon would not be allowed to just observe 8-10 operations, and then do an entire one on his/her own: (s)he would start slowly, be given feedback along the way, polish each step and then do the entire one -- but not alone. Its just the same in your profession. Ultimately, for surgeons, the bottom-line is the technical act; for you the equivalent is communication, something not all surgeons are good at, no matter how hard their instructors try. And (sadly) many of the rest of us were never formally instructed in this art.

    A good way to appreciate what it takes to be a good 'one-to-many' communicator is to first become aware of what matters, and then to practice, practice, practice, starting with some very small tasks. And so, I am proposing to spend half of my time with you on Sept 25 reacting to several short (3 minute) presentations, which I am asking teams of you to prepare ahead of time, so that your classmates and I can give on-the-spot friendly feedback. I am not a professional in how to teach communication (I leave that to the Dale Carnegie people [see the invite from their Montreal office]. And I am not promising that one can perfect one's skills by preparing and delivering a single 3-minute presentation or 250-word summary. But we can make a start!

    I have prepared and listed below a long list of possible topics, and links to the 'raw material'.


    • Your team (of 3) chooses its preferred topics.
    • One of the team emails the team name, and its list of preferred topics, to James.hanley@McGill.ca by SEPTEMBER 15 (list 2-4 in case another team has already emailed with some of the same choices) and he will confirm your choice, giving you the first one on your list that has not already been taken.
    • Between then and the 25th, read through the Guidelines for good communication, and use them to create your first attempt. And email it to JH before the class on the 25th.

Sept 25 Presentation by J Hanley

Why should we care about communication? JH's own experiences:

Things They Don't Teach Me in Graduate School

-- or maybe they did and I didn't think they mattered!

Resources: Better Communication




Possible Topics for Student Presentations/Written Reports at Communication Workshop
September 25, 2015
-- see footnotes re choice of topics, & what to include in your presentation/report.

Written - 250 words

Oral Presentation - 3 minutes


  • Topics we would like to hear about are identified by an asterisk;
    but you don't have to pick from our suggestions.

  • What we wish to read/hear from you about the topic:

    (The 'Structured Abstract' used in many journals helps organize your presentation.
    Or use the 3 questions news editors ask: - Is it new? - Is it true? - Does it matter?)

    • What is the issue and why does it matter?
    • What was done?
    • What was found?
    • What does this research/investigation/note add?

Updated: September 9, 2015