What have I learned from Presidents before me?


This is an excellent question, as I have had a chance to speak in-person or by email with many pastPresidents. Doing so was pivotal in my decision to run in this election campaign. I needed to be sure that I was right for the role, and that the role was right for me.

Each President was honest and candid, and I appreciated that. They helped me to see that there were really two phases: the campaign to be elected, and then the period after being elected. In some cases there is a tendency to make these distinct. There are may conversations to be had to convince physicians to pay attention and think about voting, hopefully for me. Some would argue that one set of conversations is necessary for this phase, but that they should be abandoned as soon as the election was over. I don’t want this to happen.

The issues I care about and the promise I make to lead boldly are not going to change once elected. Everything I talk about is something that I plan to do over the next three years. It may be that the cause takes longer, but at least if not finished by the time I am done I will take joy in having helped to start it. So what did they teach me?

From Jeff Turnbull I learned the value of being true to yourself. He led the CMA into very different conversations about equity and social determinants of health at a time when this was not high on the political radar. He forever changed the face of the CMA in thinking about ourselves as more than just leaders of physicians, but leaders of a healthcare system. He entered the CMA with convictions about issues that needed to be thought about upstream, and he left with the same. We are all better for it.

From Chris Simpson I learned the value of connecting with physicians across the country in a modern way, through the use of electronic interchanges and social media. His positions were always clear and heart-felt and made that much more meaningful by the emotion imparted by video that had never been tapped into before.

From Louis Hugo Francescutti I learned that leadership is difficult. Telling a story that others may not want to hear can be controversial and painful. Yet sometimes difficult stories need to be heard and alternative voices can be given life. Louis led the CMA with passion and excitement and imparted into a modern way of thinking. He caused me to think about being bold.

From Cindy Forbes I learned that leadership can be gracious and fun. Presidents come from different parts of the country and represent a broad mix of urban and rural, academic and clinical, primary care and specialities. Cindy gave me wisdom on the value of connecting with each and every one, and of being genuine and caring with the people. She taught me patience in seeing an idea through to conclusion. She saw the creation of Joule, where I have been involved for three years. She saw the need for innovation. I carry that torch.

There are many other past Presidents I did not get a chance to consult. But in general, from example and watching them over the past 6 General Councils I will always:

  • fight for the little guy
  • enthusiastically support and sponsor the inclusion of our younger colleagues in medical school and residency
  • listen. Before I say anything, listen.
  • not stand for incivility shown by one member toward another, no matter how rare
  • promote the professionalism inherent in our calling of medicine
  • think hard about systemic causes of beleaguerment and burnout in my peers and fight for our collective health
  • understand the differences shown by our provincial medical associations, yet strive for unity whenever possible

I want to lead the CMA with the same passion and vigour that came from Presidents before me. I want to continue their legacy of caring and trust.

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