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Civic professionalism – why leadership matters

By Chris Simpson, MD

We can all be forgiven for being a bit cynical about leadership these days. “Fake news”, “alternative facts” and endless political spin seem to have replaced critical discussions and debates of ideas. Identity politics have polarized debate on everything from social issues to economic policy. Social media, though positively transformative in so many ways, have (somewhat ironically) served to separate and silo us; reinforcing our biases and feeding a culture of cognitive dissonance. As opportunities for consensus and compromise seem to diminish, a fundamental question arises: Where have our leaders gone?

As health care professionals who have been entrusted with the privilege of self-regulation, we have a special responsibility. It is our job to serve our patients and clients and to discharge our fiduciary duties faithfully. There is a certain nobility inherent in these professional-patient partnerships; our commitment to put patients and families at the centre of everything we do builds trust. It is right and proper that we advocate for those we serve. It is the essence of our professionalism.

But is this enough? Is this the limit of what we have to offer society? Or is there a broader responsibility and leadership opportunity? What do we owe to the health care system, to our educational institutions and to equity-seeking groups? How should we be contributing to the development of economic and social policy both in Canada and internationally? It can be reasonably argued, I would submit, that if we accept the fact that the health and well-being of our patients and fellow citizens is critically impacted by things like poverty, inadequate housing and food insecurity, we should be keenly interested in the development of solutions. In an era of fiscal restraint in health care that has directly impacted our ability to provide care, we should be heavily invested in helping to secure a strong and growing economy that can underwrite stable, predictable and planned incremental investments and innovations in the health and wellness sector.

Our roles as trusted professionals provide us all with a platform on which to build a new civic professionalism, in which we see ourselves as leaders in pursuit of a better, healthier society. When we explore our roles as stewards, innovators, advocates for system reform, policy contributors, and knowledge translators, we can start to envisage a professional persona that, while always grounded in our bedside role, also strongly embraces our broader responsibility to society as a whole. Canadians want and need us to lead.

It is in this spirit that I write enthusiastically today about the upcoming election for the next Canadian Medical Association president-elect nominee. There are four outstanding candidates vying for the position. The winner, if affirmed by CMA General Council, will serve as CMA president in 2019-2020.

Sandy Buchman (http://voteforsandy.ca/) is a family physician practicing predominantly in palliative care. He has served as a president of both the College of Family Physicians of Canada as well as the Ontario College of Family Physicians. Sandy is a well-respected leader with a long track record. He has put forward a three-pillar platform: A CMA for Physicians, A CMA for Trainees, and A CMA with Patients.

Mamta Gautam (http://votemamtacma.ca) is a psychiatrist at the Ottawa Hospital, the President and CEO of Peak MD Inc. and an expert in physician health and physician leadership development. An accomplished leader and the winner of numerous awards, her campaign has been based on three themes: taking care of the self, taking care of the system, and taking care of the future.

Atul Kapur (https://atulkapur.ca/) is an Ottawa-based Emergency physician who serves as President of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and as a Director at the OMA. He has served on the CMA Board for several years. Thoughtful and articulate, Atul has laid out a three-point platform focused on physicians, patients, and the system.

Darren Larsen (http://larsen4cma.com) is an experienced physician executive with a masters certification in physician leadership. He is a family physician, the Chief Medical Information Officer at OntarioMD, and the Vice-Chair of the Cancer Quality Council at Cancer Care Ontario. He has presented three campaign themes: decisive action for Canada’s election in 2019; diversity, respect and our medical culture; and supporting physicians and innovating in our health system.

We are truly fortunate to have four experienced and committed leaders who all understand the importance of positive leadership. They are all grounded in the principles of our fundamental professionalism, but they all also demonstrate a sense of civic duty as well; seeking to lead a CMA that has become more than just the national association of Canada’s doctors.

Don’t forget to make your voice heard! Voting opens for all CMA members from Ontario on Feb 15, 2018 (https://app-7-live-cma.e1c.vote/interface/#/auth). You’ll need your CMA number and the PIN you will have received in the mail.

Good leadership has never been more important. Thank you, Sandy, Mamta, Atul and Darren for offering so graciously to lend your talents to the CMA. And thanks to all the health professionals out there – in both formal and informal leadership roles – for embracing your duty to serve.







Darren Larsen

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 13:33

Chris ... thanks so much for this. 100% spot on. Stepping up is what I do best and am so excited by the opportunity to listen, learn and lead. For those who want more details on my platform for Bold Modern Physician Leadership at the national level, you will find complete details at Larsen4CMA.com !

Darren Larsen

Gord Edwards

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 14:58

There was considerable attention in the journals several years defining "Professionalism" and encouraging same in health care. Prompted by those articles and the lack of same that I was witnessing in the OR (my primary workplace as an anesthetist), I designed a trophy for "Professionalism" which defines same in an artistic way, and is awarded annually at our OR Christmas Party, in sequence to the most deserving Surgeon, who the next year awards it to a Nurse, who awards it the next year to an Anesthetist.
This is one way to promote professionalism in the OR and has been very well received.

Gord Edwards

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