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2017 CMA Award Recipients

Ron Sapsord

Ron Sapsford
CMA Owen Adams Award of Honour

Ron Sapsford’s entire career has been dedicated to advancing health care organization and raising the standards of health care delivery in Canada, culminating with outstanding service to the doctors of Ontario.

Following a long career in health services management, Mr. Sapsford joined the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) in 2010 and served as its chief executive officer (CEO) from 2011 to 2015. Prior to joining the OMA, he had been Ontario’s deputy minister of health and long-term care from 2005 to 2009. He also served as chief operating officer (COO) at the Ontario Hospital Association, and as executive vice-president and COO for the Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation. His tenure as CEO at the OMA took place during a turbulent time in which relations with the provincial government were sorely tested due to unilateral cuts to physician fees. Mr. Sapsford played an important role in helping the OMA achieve a framework agreement that guaranteed representation rights for OMA members and a dispute-resolution mechanism. During his time as CEO, he also encouraged the OMA to take a broader advocacy role in health care at both the provincial and national levels.

Mr. Sapsford has served as a board member for the Canadian Institute of Health Information, Canada Health Infoway, the National Advisory Board of the Salvation Army, for Canada and Bermuda, and the Change Foundation. He is currently a director of the Michael Garron Hospital, Schlegel Health Inc. and is Chair of Associated Medical Services Inc. He holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Toronto and a master’s of health administration degree from the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Jean-Claude Forest

Dr. Jean-Claude Forest
CMA Medal of Service

During his nearly 40-year career, Dr. Jean-Claude Forest has raised the standards of practice of the medical profession in Canada and internationally, and has helped to improve the direct care provided to pregnant women in prenatal screening programs in Canada

His contributions to organizational improvements within medicine include his integral role in developing the residency program in medical biochemistry in Quebec, which evolved into a provincial network covering all Quebec medical schools. He established the Research Center of Saint-Francis of Assisi Hospital, and became the first Director of the University of Quebec’s Hospital Research Center. During his tenure there, the research centre became one of the top ten major hospital research centers in Canada. He and his team have made significant contributions to the development of biomarkers for prenatal screening of fetal aneuploidies and early detection of maternal diseases such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. He also coordinated the establishment of the Quebec Prenatal Screening Program for Trisomy 21.

An internationally recognized expert in standardization in laboratory medicine, he has worked to improve quality and reliability of clinical laboratory tests worldwide. He cofounded and chaired the International Joint Committee on Traceability in Laboratory Medicine and represented the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) on the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Biological Standardization.

Dr. Forest is currently professor of laboratory medicine at Laval. The recipient of many awards and honors throughout his career, Dr. Forest remains a leading health care organization advisor, a valued mentor in clinical research and a source of inspiration for his colleagues. Dr. Forest is the 47th winner of the CMA Medal of Service.

Dr. Donald Lalonde

Dr. Donald Lalonde
F. N. G. Starr Award

With over 30 volunteer surgical missions in 20 countries, Dr. Don Lalonde discovered that many people in developing countries cannot afford operations, such as cleft lip repair and reconstruction of hand injuries. The costly price of general anesthesia and main operating room sterility in these countries makes it financially impossible for some individuals to receive the care they need.

This drove Dr. Lalonde to write numerous research publications on evidence based sterility, tourniquet free hand surgery and minimal pain local anesthesia injection techniques. With his book on wide awake hand surgery and over 1000 presentations in 35 countries on these subjects, he has been instrumental in embedding these Canadian innovations throughout the world.

This impassioned work of Dr. Lalonde has enabled surgeons in developing countries to perform cleft lip repair and hand surgery with minimal discomfort outside of the main operating room. The impact to patients who can now afford the surgery is life changing. They are able to return to work and look after their families.

His work has also created a new era of wide awake hand surgery. Patients simply roll up their sleeve in a clinic setting, much like sitting in a dental chair for a filling.

Dr. Lalonde is a Professor of Surgery at Dalhousie University in Saint John, New Brunswick. He is the first Canadian to become Chairman of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. He has been President of both the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Association for Hand Surgery.

Dr. Gillian Hawker

Dr. Gillian Hawker
CMA May Cohen Award for Women Mentors

Dr. Gillian Hawker has not only served as a highly valued personal mentor to many of her female colleagues throughout her career, but she has also been instrumental in establishing mentorship as a departmental priority at the University of Toronto.

After graduating from the University of Toronto medical school in 1984 Dr. Hawker pursued a career in rheumatology, and in 1993 she joined the Faculty of Medicine as a clinician-scientist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. During a turbulent period that followed the de-amalgamation of Women’s College and Sunnybrook hospitals, Dr. Hawker became physician-in-chief at Women’s College, and led a period of sustained growth and rejuvenation. Dr. Hawker was appointed Sir John and Lady Eaton Professor and Chair of Medicine at the University of Toronto in July 2014, following her completion of two five-year terms as physician-in-chief of medicine and F.M. Hill Chair in Academic Women’s Medicine at Women’s College Hospital.

As chair of medicine, Dr. Hawker made “mentorship across the academic lifespan” a departmental strategic priority and created the inaugural position of vice-chair, mentorship, equity & diversity. It was the only department at the University of Toronto to have such a position. Under Dr. Hawker’s direction, the department has also created a Mentorship, Equity and Diversity Committee and a mentorship toolkit.

Dr. Hawker has twice been recognized locally for her mentorship of others, especially women. In 2010, the Women’s College Research Institute recognized her with the Distinguished Senior Mentor Award, and in 2013, the Department of Medicine awarded her the Robert Hyland Award for Excellence in Mentorship.

Dr. Peter Kuling

Dr. Peter Kuling
CMA Sir Charles Tupper Award for Political Action

Dr. Peter Kuling has been described as the embodiment of the physician as lobbyist. Over the course of two decades, he played a leadership role at both the provincial and national levels as a leading advocate for physicians. Dr. Kuling entered medical politics as a member of the Saskatchewan Medical Association Board of Directors in 1985, and six years later became president of that association. During the same period he became a member and then chair of the Canadian Medical Association’s Political Action Committee (PAC).

It was during Dr. Kuling’s time on the PAC that his flair for organizing the CMA’s grassroots advocacy activities became apparent. An active member of the CMA’s MD-MP Contact Program, which pairs physicians with members of Parliament for advocacy purposes, Dr. Kuling was instrumental in modernizing and revitalizing this outreach effort during the 1990s.

He was also active in many other CMA advocacy activities, including serving as chair of the CMA Anti-Tobacco Steering Committee and of the CMA Health Action Lobby (HEAL) Steering Committee, and as a participant in many CMA presentations to government bodies. In addition, through the CMA’s Physician Leadership Institute he has for many years delivered workshops and educational sessions to practising physicians and physicians-in-training dealing with advocacy skills and the profession’s need for proactive involvement in grassroots lobbying activities.

Peter Kuling is an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa. He works with The Ottawa Hospital Academic Family Health Team (TOHAFHT) where he has served as both Lead Physician and Unit Director of the TOHAFHT.

Sport for Life Society

Sport for Life Society
CMA Award for Excellence in Health Promotion

The Sport for Life Society (S4L) takes a unique approach to the promotion of physical activity among Canadians by advancing the notion of “physical literacy” in Canadian communities.

As one physician noted, S4L’s leadership role is important within the health promotion field because “it is well established that physical activity is critical to maintain health, yet most Canadians are not accumulating enough of it.

Physical literacy is defined as the “motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.” Not only did S4L lead the National Physical Literacy Alliance group that developed the framework for physical literacy in Canada, but more than 5,000 leaders have been trained in how to deliver quality sport opportunities.

The Sport for Life Society, which is based in Victoria, has also encouraged a “sport for all” approach by addressing issues such as gender, socioeconomic status and cultural diversity.

As one of the society’s supporters noted, S4L is working to minimize the gender gap in physical literacy development, which sees females being less physically literate (and less physically active) than their male counterparts. That same supporter stated: “S4L has exemplified creativity and initiative in its leadership toward increasing community capacity to deliver quality physical activity opportunities for Canadians, both in the current context and also for years to come.”

Bing Yu Chen

Bing Yu Chen
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Student)

Many people are concerned about the lack of organ donation, but the issue inspired Bing Yu Chen to organize Zombies Hungry for Organ Donation. This Halloween event attracted more than 200 medical students and students in other health professions — all dressed up as zombies — who distributed more than 4,000 organ donation consent stickers in five major cities across Quebec.

Mr. Chen’s leadership and creativity in this important area are also reflected by the position papers on organ donation he has written for both the Quebec and Ontario medical student societies. As well, he has taken his concerns to the national stage by producing a policy statement for the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) and through the development of a course on organ donation that is currently being taught at six medical schools.

Mr. Chen has also visited Quebec’s National Assembly to lobby politicians on the need to expand funding for Quebec's Organ Procurement Centre. Outside Canada, he has served as the International Federation of Medical Student Associations program coordinator on organ, tissue and marrow donation. As a result of these initiatives, Chen has been identified as a “very serious leader” in the field.

Mr. Chen, an undergraduate at McGill University, has also collaborated with other medical students to produce the CFMS Match Book. The publication, which is read annually by thousands of Canadian medical students hoping to conceptualize an appropriate strategy for the yearly residency match, offers detailed student testimonials, infographics and a streamlined design.

Amy Li

Amy Li
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Student)

When Amy Li’s family moved from China to Canada when she was 10 years old, they had no social support system and she had to work hard to keep up academically and socially. Years later, that early resilience shown by Ms. Li would lead to an undergraduate education in neuroscience and subsequent admission to the Cumming Medical School at the University of Calgary, and would spur her commitment to help “level the playing field” for others.

That commitment manifests itself in her ongoing interest in mental health issues. Starting with work as a volunteer at Distress Centre Calgary, Ms. Li founded a Distress Centre on Campus Club to help make resources available to students in need. In 2013 she and a friend formed Outrun the Stigma Calgary, a running event that has engaged more than 1,600 students, community members and volunteers and helped to raise over $44,000 for Distress Centre Calgary.

Ms. Li now hopes to expand this initiative throughout Canada, with expansion efforts already underway in Edmonton and Toronto. Each run is complemented by presentations from local community members who are invited to speak about their mental health experiences.

In the spirit of helping others, Ms. Li has also personally mentored five students through the transition to university, worked with Dr. Bharwani to start the Peer Consulting Group at the Cumming School of Medicine, and co-founded a mentorship program within the science faculty which has helped more than 300 students and expanded to two other faculties.

Dr. Aravind Ganesh

Dr. Aravind Ganesh
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Resident)

“Innovation, leadership, persistence and confidence.”

These are the characteristics that Dr. Ganesh listed when asked how to become a Rhodes Scholar, and they serve as a very apt description of his personal traits.

Dr. Ganesh, who was awarded a Rhodes scholarship in 2014, is currently on leave from his residency in neurology at the University of Calgary to complete a doctorate of philosophy in clinical neurosciences at Oxford University in England.

In addition to his thesis work on long-term stroke outcomes and trial design at Oxford, Dr. Ganesh is also junior dean at St. John’s College, a clinical teaching associate, a fellow at the Centre for Prevention of Stroke and Dementia (Oxford), and an editor and reviewer for the Resident and Fellow Section of the journal Neurology. He is also collaborating with McGill University to identify plasma-based biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease.

This energy and commitment is nothing new, since he has been displaying both characteristics since receiving his medical degree from the University of Calgary in 2012.

Dr. Ganesh has already received numerous honours, including sharing awards in 2013-14 for development of the SnapDx suite of apps that adapt best-practice guidelines to generate patient-centred treatment plans at the bedside. He continues to pursue the effective use of modern technology to improve care, such as the development of mobile-based monitoring of symptoms and complications of cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Dr. Ganesh has also served on the Mobile Health Working Group of the World Health Organization, working on a framework for national digital health platforms for chronic disease management.

Dr. Colm McCarthy

Dr. Colm McCarthy
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Resident)

Before entering medical school, Dr. Colm McCarthy experienced some of the most cataclysmic events nature can produce. He served as an emergency response team leader dealing with events throughout the US, including Hurricane Katrina and multiple wildfires and tornadoes. While battling these natural disasters, Dr. McCarthy became aware of inequities in medical services and opportunities, awareness that has since directed his life and spurred his interest in global health.

After returning to school and receiving three undergraduate degrees in four years, Dr. McCarthy received an admission scholarship to McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine. After graduating in 2013, he became a resident in orthopedic surgery at McMaster, where he has since taken on a number of leadership and mentoring roles. As well, his peers elected him as Junior Resident Citizen of the Year, and as a third-year resident he served as one of the chief residents, a task typically performed by residents in their fifth year of training.

In addition to serving as executive secretary for the Professional Association of Residents of Ontario, Dr. McCarthy sits on the Executive Committee for the Ontario Medical Association’s section of residents and serves on the Resident Doctors of Canada Board and co-chairs its training committee. He is currently enrolled in the master of health science program at McMaster, where his research involves developing, implementing, and validating a competency-based assessment tool for orthopedic surgery. Medical education has become Dr. McCarthy’s passion and he looks forward to applying his research and developments within orthopaedic residency more broadly. 

Dr. Farhan Asrar

Dr. Farhan Asrar
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Early Career)

Described by his nominators as “an award winning physician, researcher and one of Canada’s brightest stars among young leaders in medicine,” Dr. Asrar is assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto and cross-appointed in the Clinical Public Health Division at Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Dr. Asrar currently practises in Mississauga and the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, and in addition to teaching incoming residents and learners from across Ontario he is also adjunct faculty member with the International Space University (France) and is frequently invited to teach participants from over 30 countries. He founded a provincial environmental health newsletter in conjunction with the Ontario College of Family Physicians and was founder and editor of Community Calling, a national magazine for Canada’s public health physicians.

His achievements span journal publications, including in the Lancet ID; working on projects both locally and internationally with experts from the United Nations, NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada; being a guest speaker at a United Nations workshop; and being recognized for his leadership through several awards from organizations such as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Ontario Medical Association and Resident Doctors of Canada. He is also a recipient of the Governor General’s Sovereign's Medal.

Dr. Asrar is a history of medicine enthusiast and has a personal collection of original and rare documents and letters from medical pioneers including Osler, Banting and Best.

As one colleague noted, “To have achieved all of this during his short career is the mark of a true leader.”

Dr. Paul Dhillon

Dr. Paul Dhillon
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Early Career)

A look at Dr. Paul Dhillon’s accomplishments to date makes it difficult to believe he is still in the early stages of his medical career. The list includes editing a book — The Surprising Lives of Small-Town Doctors — donating all of the proceeds to charity and serving as a Medical Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces with 16 (Regina) Field Ambulance. He has served as the Senior Medical Authority for Ex Arctic Ram and Ex Arctic Bison.

It also includes working in Sierra Leone in an Ebola Hospital with Save the Children, where, as one colleague observed, Dr. Dhillon “faced ethical conundrums and had to make tough decisions in an adverse environment.”

Dr. Dhillon -- a “full-service general practitioner” in rural Saskatchewan -- is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He is also Co-founder of The Review Course in Family Medicine, which helps residents and international medical graduates prepare for their certification examination in family medicine.

On the leadership front he has served as president of the Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Saskatchewan, and in 2016 he Captained Team Canada to a 14th place finish at the World Medical Football Championships in Barcelona, Spain. As well, the College of Family Physicians of Canada has honoured him with the Murray Stalker Award “as the Canadian family medicine resident most likely to become a future leader in our field.”

Despite his relative youth, as one colleague noted, he is already “a formidable ambassador for Canadian family physicians.”

Dr. James Silvius

Dr. James Silvius
CMA Dr. William Marsden Award in Medical Ethics

In Alberta, the name of Dr. James Silvius is synonymous with the issue of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) because he played such a key role in preparing the province for federal legislation dealing with that controversial subject. In 2015, following the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that struck down the Criminal Code ban on MAiD, Alberta Health Services (AHS) appointed Dr. Silvius to lead MAiD preparedness for the organization. Recognizing that the work was broader than AHS, he spent hundreds of hours working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and others as he solicited diverse viewpoints on the issue and consulted with individual physicians.

To quote one colleague, “he brought the wealth of knowledge and perspectives from across Alberta, Canada and the world to ensure the best possible program. In a very short time he led a process to prepare the entire organization for what is one of the most significant changes to medical practice we have seen in decades.” He was also instrumental in the development of a Palliative and End-of-Life Care framework for Alberta.

Dr. Silvius is the provincial medical director for seniors health and the senior medical director for the Seniors Health Strategic Clinical Network with AHS. The lead role he played in the MAiD debate in Alberta reflected his long-standing involvement and expertise in many issues surrounding care for the elderly, including dementia care, elder abuse and drug management with seniors.

Dr. Réjean Thomas

Dr. Réjean Thomas
CMA Physician Misericordia Award

Dr. Réjean Thomas, who founded the Clinique médicale l’Actuel in Montréal in 1984 and currently serves as its chair and chief executive officer, is a pioneer in dealing with sexually transmitted infections and in disseminating knowledge about the treatment of patients infected with HIV.

He expanded his efforts in these areas in 2011 by opening a second clinic, Clinique A, in Montréal which specializes in sexual health. In addition to his work as a clinician, he is a former special adviser to the Québec government on international humanitarian action. He also serves as an associate physician at the McGill AIDS Centre.

From Montréal, Dr. Thomas has spread his message of humanistic medicine around the world by participating in humanitarian missions in Afghanistan, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Vietnam.

“His acute sense of the reality of vulnerable populations also drove Dr. Thomas to develop and implement a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to patient care,” one colleague observed. “Dr. Thomas never treats a pathology in isolation; he considers people in their reality, and [he considers] their individual characteristics.”

His contributions have also extended to medical research — he has been involved in the publication of some 60 journal articles, and sits on several scientific committees involved in the funding of HIV-related research.

The presentation of the CMA’s Physician Misericordia Award to Dr. Thomas is a worthy addition to a list of honours that already includes membership in the Order of Canada, his recent receipt of the Quebec Medical Association’s top honour, the Prestige Award, and two honorary doctorates. 

Captain Raymond Kao

Captain Raymond Kao
John McCrae Memorial Medal

Although Captain (Navy) Raymond Kao graduated from medical school in 1990, it is safe to say that his medical education has never ended.

During a distinguished career that began when he earned an engineering degree from Royal Military College, he completed three deployments to the NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

As a colleague later observed: “His expertise in critical care contributed to this facility demonstrating an unprecedented 98% survival rate for combat casualties ‘arriving at the doors alive,’ one of the highest rates ever recorded.” He also returned to Afghanistan in 2012 to mentor Afghan military physicians and help them develop a critical care education curriculum.

A later deployment, in 2014, involved a different type of battle. He was part of a military medical team sent to Sierra Leone to help combat the Ebola epidemic that claimed more than 11,000 lives in West Africa. Captain Kao provided “the highest levels of care” to affected health care workers and also studied prognostic factors to help improve care in future epidemics.

Captain Kao, who is certified in both critical care medicine and internal medicine, has been involved in 11 research projects and published 30 articles during his career. His recent research has focused on delivering resuscitation care to trauma patients.

In 2013, he was honoured for his career accomplishments by being named Canada’s first-ever Chair in Military Critical Care Research. Today, after 40 years in the Canadian Forces, his work continues to benefit both military personnel and civilian populations.