Looking at the Year Ahead

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Dr. Brenda Copps

In my first message in this new role, I sent a deeply-felt thank you for all that you have done and sacrificed in the last several unbelievable months. Since then, my pride in my profession and the respect I have for my peers has only grown. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do in caring for the people of Ontario.

These extraordinary circumstances saw us hold our first ever virtual Council meeting and I am proud of the leadership and staff at the College who were able to keep the operations running so smoothly during the pandemic.

At our March Council meeting, we presented Dr. Steven Griffin, a family doctor from Bancroft, with a well-deserved Council Award. As a small-town doctor dedicated to providing comprehensive care to his patients, Dr. Griffin said he often feels like he had five part-time jobs.

The comment resonated with me. Like Dr. Griffin, I am a family practitioner. Unlike Dr. Griffin, I have an urban family practice. I suspect that most family physicians, regardless of their practice location, would describe themselves as multi-taskers. It is part of the job. We have a lot of balls to juggle — and some days can be harder than others in keeping them all in the air.

This year has seen my own multi-tasking efforts burn with a new intensity as I take on the role and responsibilities of the President of this College. It is a profound honour to lead this Council and I am very aware that I am only able to assume this role because I work in a family health team that allows me the flexibility. Although I will continue to see patients throughout this year, my colleagues will take on some of my load and for that, I am deeply grateful.

In working at the College while seeing patients, I’ve come to realize how my dual roles have enriched my understanding of the practice of medicine. Certainly, my years of work on the Quality Assurance Committee have sensitized me to potential blind spots in my own practice. And my insights as a busy clinician informs so much of my decision-making on policies and other initiatives. For that reason, I was in favour when the College decided to emphasize the importance of active current practice in its criteria for committee appointments. I think its important that our decision-making at the College reflect the realities of being a physician in today’s world.

It has been several years since we have had a family physician as President of this College. But the specialty is particularly well represented among the growing group of medical advisors here at the College. As we roll our exciting new Quality Improvement Program, QI coaches will be available as a resource, where appropriate. They’ll offer the necessary knowledge, tools, and skills to coach physicians as they develop their own practice improvement plan.

Enhancing patient engagement is another area of focus for the College. In late 2019, the College became Chair of the Citizen Advisory Group (CAG), a partnership of 18 health regulators in Ontario. In this role, we support all the partner colleges as they engage patients and caregivers on a variety of regulatory issues, such as policies and standards.

Public and patient engagement is of particular interest for me in my year as President and I was pleased to sit as an observer at a recent meeting of CAG and listen to this diverse group of patients and caregivers as they provided feedback on a variety of important regulatory issues The CPSO’s contribution to the agenda was our Complementary and Alternative Medicine policy, which is now under review. I was pleased with the calibre of the discussion as various members of CAG provided thoughtful comments. The conversation was balanced, informed, and nuanced. I look forward to hearing more from CAG as I believe that it will be a rich resource in helping us support our work in the public interest.

As critical as it is to receive public feedback, we also must know how members of the profession feel about our various initiatives. I appreciate that so many of you take the time to participate in our consultations and offer your insights to improve our efforts. While our initiatives are intended to primarily serve the public interest, we recognize that they will only meet that goal if our expectations are practical and reasonable to the profession. Your input is crucial to the success of medical regulation.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many years of excellent service that my friend, Dr. Akbar Panju, has given to the College, through his roles as an academic representative to Council and as a long-time member of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee. Akbar had been elected to serve as Vice-President this year, when he made the hard decision to step away from his College duties for personal reasons. We will miss his kindness and wisdom deeply. His perspective was always of deep value.

An election at March Council saw family physician Dr. Judith Plante become the next Vice-President. And Dr. Karen Saperson, a geriatric psychiatrist, will be the new academic representative from McMaster. I look forward to working closely with Judith and Karen.

In closing, I recognize that this pandemic has created many good reasons to be worried and scared, and our lives will be very different moving forward. But this crisis has also served to remind me of the importance of gratitude. And high on my list of things to be grateful for is the privilege of calling you my peers. It is an exceptional honour to be the President of this College.