Unity needed in challenging times for medical profession

By Roger Collier | CMAJ | Aug. 23, 2016

Physicians must stand together and put patients first to address challenges facing the medical profession, outgoing CMA President Dr. Cindy Forbes said during her valedictory address (Mark Holleron/CMA).

Has the medical profession lost its soul? This question was posed by a retiring doctor at an event in New Brunswick, as he lamented the future of medicine. In the audience that evening was Dr. Cindy Forbes, who is finishing her year as president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). The question stung, and it stuck with her for weeks. Ultimately, however, the answer became clear to her.

“I do not believe that we are a profession that has lost its soul,” Forbes said during her valedictory address today at the CMA’s annual meeting in Vancouver. “If anything, I believe that the values that are reflected in the oath that we all take, the values that brought us to this profession in the first place, are as strong as they have ever been.”

Sure, physicians have struggles, Forbes acknowledged. Sometimes governments appear hostile to the profession, especially in times of financial trouble. Sometimes it’s difficult for doctors, in the current health care system, to give patients the care they deserve. And adapting to rapid changes in technology, communications and patient expectations isn’t easy.

“So how will we do this? How will we move forward?” asked Forbes. “We will stand together as a profession, based on our common values, always putting patients first. We will support and respect each other as individuals, as colleagues who we care about. We will build trust by being trustworthy.”

I believe that the values that are reflected in the oath that we all take, the values that brought us to this profession in the first place, are as strong as they have ever been.

Forbes also used her speech as an opportunity to reflect on the work the CMA had done in the past year. Her presidency began just before a federal election, and by leveraging many different channels — town hall meetings, social media, community partnerships — the CMA helped push health care onto party platforms, with an emphasis on seniors’ care. She also highlighted the CMA’s work on medical assistance in dying. “I do believe that we have landed in the right place at this point in time with the passage of Bill C-14 and that we will continue to lead as the conversation evolves.”

From a personal perspective, serving as president of the CMA was an amazing year in her life, said Forbes. She travelled the country several times, appeared before parliamentary committees, attended a Speech from the Throne and gained valuable insight into her profession through countless conversations with physicians, politicians and patients.

“Serving in the role of president of the CMA gives one a very unique vantage point, a window to what’s happening in health care and within our profession across the country, a front row seat to the political and social influences affecting Canadians, an education in a classroom filled with great leaders from many different walks of life, the ability to connect with so many of our colleagues and perhaps most importantly, a podium from which to lead and to bring your voice, a respected voice, to the national forefront.”

CMA’s new president-elect

Dr. Laurent Marcoux from Longueuil, Quebec, was declared president-elect of CMA (Mark Holleron/CMA).

Earlier in the day, during the elections session, Dr. Laurent Marcoux from Longueuil, Quebec, was declared president-elect of CMA. He will assume leadership in August 2017. Marcoux has practised family medicine for 32 years, and he said that experience, as a physician and a manager, taught him not only the importance of the doctor–patient relationship, but also helped him understand the organizational difficulties in the medical profession.

“Renewed professionalism is clearly needed, as society expects us to act as stewards of the common good and ensure the sustainability of our health care system,” said Marcoux. “We all know that our profession is facing great challenges. We have to work in a changing environment with new expectations from society, and more transparency and accountability than ever.”

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