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2018 CMA Award Recipients

Mike Gormley
Mike Gormley
CMA Owen Adams Award of Honour

Being nominated for an award — and having every Alberta Medical Association (AMA) president since 2001 support you — is surely an accolade in itself. Mr. Mike Gormley, the AMA’s executive director, now also has the honour of being the second recipient of the newly named Owen Adams Award of Honour.

Having held leadership positions at the AMA for almost 24 years, with the last 15 as their executive director, Mr. Gormley has dedicated his entire career to advocating for physicians and for improvements to the health care system.

He played a key role in the development of Alberta’s primary care networks, which have transformed the way physicians work with other health professionals to deliver primary care services. He has also supported Alberta physicians in adopting electronic medical records and in successfully working through rounds of complex fee negotiations with the provincial government.

Mr. Gormley has a broad range of experience that covers several jurisdictions. This has included working for the provincial governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta; the provincial medical associations of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta; and private consulting in Manitoba and New Brunswick.

Having worked closely with Mr. Owen Adams for many years, Mr. Gormley says while it is particularly gratifying to receive this year’s award, he acknowledges the work of the AMA presidents who supported his nomination, as well as the other AMA and CMA staff he has collaborated with over the years.

“There are lots of things that go into an effective [health care] system and it’s necessary to have physicians play a leadership role,” Mr. Gormley says. “You need physician leadership, but it does have to be organized — and they have to organize it themselves — through provincial and territorial medical associations, and the CMA.”

Dr. John Dossetor

Dr. John Dossetor
CMA Medal of Service

As a pioneer in nephrology and bioethics, Dr. John Dossetor has helped establish Canada as a world leader in both fields.

In 1958, he organized the first kidney transplant from a living donor, and he subsequently established the first kidney transplant program at McGill University in 1964 — the same year he co-founded the Kidney Foundation of Canada. He has been described as a mentor, leader and role model for a generation of Canadian nephrologists.

Dr. Dossetor also broke ground in Canada as a bioethicist. He was the first professor in the field at the University of Alberta; in 2008, its bioethics centre was renamed in his honour. He was also a founding member of the Canadian Bioethics Society and has consulted nationally on a number of fundamental ethical issues in medicine including abortion, AIDS and HIV treatment, and end-of-life care.

His accomplishments have been acknowledged with many prestigious awards, including the Order of Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, and the Canadian Bioethics Society Lifetime Achievement Award. The CMA Medal of Service will mark the second honour Dr. Dossetor has received from the CMA; in 2007, he was the first recipient of the Dr. William Marsden Award in Medical Ethics.

Dr. Andreas Laupacis

Dr. Andreas Laupacis
F. N. G. Starr Award

As a leading academic and clinician, Dr. Andreas Laupacis’ career is full of noteworthy achievements — from developing the NNT (the ”number needed to treat”) as a standard measure of efficacy for health interventions, to helping establish the importance of patient engagement in health care delivery.

He has been described as a skilled scientist, a gifted communicator and a humanist, and each of these roles are reflected in his achievements. “In some ways I see my whole career as that of a generalist,” says Dr. Laupacis.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Laupacis has developed several different guidelines, decision aids for patients, and approaches to assessing health care technology and interventions — all of which have been instrumental in shaping health services delivery. As the CEO for the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Dr. Laupacis has championed the use of administrative data and health services research to influence policy. In addition to his academic and clinical work, more recently Dr. Laupacis has been involved in developing the Healthy Debate website, an influential platform for evidence-based health policy commentaries and a forum for establishing patient-centred narratives as an important medium for considering health issues.

But when asked to recall one of his most exciting professional moments, Dr. Laupacis talks about his work early in his career with Dr. Calvin Stiller, to validate the role of cyclosporine in preventing organ rejection.

Reflecting on his varied career, he says he has been “incredibly lucky” to be a doctor-researcher who has been able to shift his focus over time.

Dr. Laupacis is a professor at the University of Toronto and a Canada Research Chair in Health Policy and Citizen Engagement. He also serves as chair of the board for Health Quality Ontario, helping the organization become a leader in integrating patient engagement into policy development and delivery. Until recently, he was also the executive director of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Dr. Janice Willett

Dr. Janice Willett
CMA May Cohen Award for Women Mentors

Dr. Janice Willett’s leadership spans local, regional, provincial and national jurisdictions. But her biggest impact has arguably been at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), where she’s worked to amplify the voices of northern physicians within Canada’s health care and education systems.

Through her evolving role in the development of NOSM — she began by leading the women’s health faculty in the development of its curriculum — Dr. Willett’s work represents “a strong commitment to meet the needs of the community as well as produce excellent physicians.”

Dr. Willett has also been praised for her mentoring skills and for her role in ensuring faculty development is available for all teaching staff at NOSM.

She served as the first head of the school’s Clinical Sciences Division and played an integral part in the creation of an academic alternative funding plan for faculty. In her current role as associate dean of faculty affairs/continuing education and professional development, she continues to support the career and leadership development of clinical faculty members.

Dr. Willett says there are many unique challenges in mentoring effectively in Northern Ontario. Connecting faculty members and promoting diversity at NOSM requires an effective team and an engagement strategy that makes use of modern technologies. “But the basics are that people call you when they need you and you have to be responsive.”

A graduate of Western University — where she completed postgraduate training in obstetrics and gynecology — Dr. Willett has practised in Sault Ste. Marie since 1992. She served as president of the Ontario Medical Association in 2007 and is currently chair of the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).

Dr. Albert Schumacher

Dr. Albert Schumacher
CMA Sir Charles Tupper Award for Political Action

Dr. Albert Schumacher was still early in his career when he was encouraged by his obstetrician uncle to get involved with their local medical society. Then the Ontario doctors’ strike of 1986 happened, and in his role as the Essex County Medical Society’s secretary, Dr. Schumacher quickly moved from being simply involved in physician advocacy to being truly committed to the cause.

During this time, Dr. Schumacher says he quickly came to appreciate the importance of training doctors on how to run a meeting, give an interview and meet face to face with politicians.

At both the provincial and national levels, Dr. Schumacher has continued this commitment to leadership training and advocacy at the grassroots level. At the Ontario Medical Association, he was instrumental in creating an advocacy training program for medical students, residents and physicians, a program he has spent the past two years helping to refresh.

Dr. Schumacher’s own personal transition through the medical political system culminated in 2004–2005, when he became president of the CMA. As president, Dr. Schumacher was a visible advocate for physicians as he kept pressure on governments to address the shortage of physicians and long waiting lists for patients.

Several generations of medical students also credit Dr. Schumacher with helping them obtain the knowledge and skills required to be advocates for the profession and their patients. “I realized we had to get younger people involved and keep them involved,” he says.

Aline Demirdjian Khatchikian

Aline Demirdjian Khatchikian
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Student)

Described as a citizen of the world, Dr. Aline D. Khatchikian — now a radiology resident — has put leadership at the forefront of her medical career right from the start.

As a medical student at Université Laval, Dr. Khatchikian was the youngest member elected to the board of the Québec Medical Association (QMA). She also developed extensive international experience by giving training sessions in Switzerland, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Macedonia, amongst other countries, to encourage the next generation of medical students to become health advocates.

In January 2015, during her second year of medical school, Dr. Khatchikian attended the Americas Regional Meeting of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations in Colombia. “That’s when I met hundreds of students with a passion for global health like me, and that really sparked my interest to do more.”

In May 2017, she organized the Youth Pre-World Health Assembly in Geneva, where she had the opportunity to collaborate with the World Health Organization. Throughout her extracurricular activities, she has aimed to promote the importance of social accountability in medicine.

To play this role globally, she says, it was important to become better educated about the day-to-day realities of health care in Quebec and Canada, which fueled her involvement with the QMA and CMA. In 2015 and 2017, Dr. Khatchikian participated in the CMA’s General Council meetings and was able to discuss the role of young Canadians as advocates with then Health Minister Jane Philpott.

“What I enjoy the most is analyzing other health systems and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”

Dr. Khatchikian’s interests also extend to the clinical and research fields. She has contributed to multiples research projects involving breast imaging, artificial intelligence in liver imaging and PET scanning. She is currently pursuing her residency training at McGill University in diagnostic radiology.

Lerly Luo

Lerly Luo
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Student)

For Ms. Lerly Luo, medical issues are global issues.

In her first year of medical school, Ms. Luo co-founded the first Global Health Conference at the University of British Columbia, which brought together 150 students from diverse backgrounds, building partnerships between health care professionals, engineers and entrepreneurs. Ms. Luo says this conference also helped her reach a major realization: the greatest problems in health care can have relatively simple solutions when examined from a new perspective.

In 2015, Ms. Luo brought her innovative perspective to Singularity University’s Global Solutions Program, a 10-week program based at NASA, where she worked with others from more than 44 countries to create scalable technological solutions to pressing global issues.

Ms. Luo has also demonstrated her global health concerns at the grassroots level, travelling to Nairobi, Kenya, to work with Access Afya, a social enterprise creating a model for integrated community health. There, she researched how to provide health care more effectively to Nairobi’s slums and marginalized populations using digital technologies. Closer to home, Ms. Luo has been involved in public health research with homeless youth engaged in injection drug use and sex work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

In 2018, Ms. Luo was one of nine medical students selected to represent the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations — an organization representing 1.3 million medical students from more than 100 countries — at the executive board meeting of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

“I believe Lerly will play a role in changing the face of medicine,” stated one of her advisors in reflecting on Ms. Luo’s innovative leadership.

Dr. Blair Bigham

Dr. Blair Bigham
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Resident)

Few residents would be better qualified to write a news story about their own career than Dr. Blair Bigham.

In addition to being an emergency medicine resident at McMaster University in Hamilton and a qualified helicopter paramedic, Dr. Bigham is also a medical journalist. He’s published major feature articles in national publications including The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, and he frequently appears on CBC. One of his stories — on gaps in youth mental health services — prompted a $14 million investment in university mental health services from the Ontario government.

“I found there were topics I would come across in my work in the emergency department or as a paramedic that really were anecdotes of deeper societal challenges, and I wanted to be able to tell those stories,” he says.

In 2017, Dr. Bingham completed a Munk School of Global Affairs fellowship to share these stories with a broader audience and says his experiences and training as both a physician and as a reporter have helped inform both roles.

Dr. Bigham has also continued to advocate for his fellow residents on the issue of trainee well-being, with tireless committee work at both the provincial and national levels. After entering medical school, he found many of his classmates were struggling to deal with the type of tragedies he had already experienced in his eight years as a paramedic. Dr. Bingham took this opportunity to play a mentorship role, which has evolved over time.

Dr. Bigham has already developed an impressive dossier of research work with publications in high-impact journals including The New England Journal of Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Dr. Bigham is also resident editor for the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Dr. Christopher Charles

Dr. Christopher Charles
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Resident)

It’s no overstatement to say that Dr. Christopher Charles’ Lucky Iron Fish project has revolutionized the treatment of iron deficiency in Cambodia. If you’re curious about the project name, the explanation is simple: Dr. Charles created a small piece of iron shaped as a fish — a symbol of good luck in Cambodia — for families to use in their cooking pots. A cheap, convenient treatment for anemia was born. It’s no surprise then that the project has been described as a “fascinating confluence of science, innovation, service and cultural humility.”

The Lucky Iron Fish project has received media attention worldwide, won a Cannes Lions Grand Prix Award for creative communications and has now become a global social enterprise.

“I’ve always loved public health and trying to help populations of people,” says Dr. Charles in describing his involvement in Cambodia and the development of Lucky Iron Fish. “[This passion] shaped who I am today but it did not necessarily shape what I’m doing today.”

Given this and his other achievements, it’s no overstatement to describe his leadership track record as prodigious. Dr. Charles also holds a PhD in nutritional epidemiology and is currently completing his residency in anesthesiology at the University of Toronto. In addition, he continues to align his passions for global health with his career within anesthesia. As a trustee of the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society International Education Foundation, he is helping to develop locally sustainable anesthesia education programs to improve perioperative safety in low-resource settings.

“I lived and breathed the international development world for several years, and coming back to Canada, I found a number of people who have similar interests in social justice. I think I bring a different perspective, and I’ve found that’s been complementary to some of the organizations I’m working with now.”

Dr. Cara Bablitz

Dr. Cara Bablitz
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Early Career)

With her backpack on her shoulders, Dr. Cara Bablitz is always ready to respond to a call to care for a person who is homeless, on the street and dying.

In her role with the Palliative Care Outreach and Advocacy Team in Edmonton, Dr. Bablitz helps provide care to socially vulnerable patients across the city.

“I was drawn to palliative care because there’s a lot of hope in [it] and you can learn so much about living from those who are dying,” says Dr. Bablitz.

Dr. Bablitz — who also practises at the Indigenous Wellness Clinic and is a clinical lecturer at the University of Alberta — received her medical degree from the University of Alberta in 2011. In 2016, she received the Palliative Medicine Resident Research Award from the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians for the best scholarly project by a resident.

As a Métis physician, Dr. Bablitz uses her expertise to assist vulnerable Indigenous patients, who are often denied access to timely palliative care and end-of-life services.

“Growing up, there was shame felt by my family and others about being Indigenous. My patients and elders have shown me the importance of assisting people in embracing their culture and the truth of where they came from, especially at end of life.”

Dr. Bablitz’s advocacy efforts extend beyond palliative care and individual patients. Last fall, as chair of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) Indigenous Health Committee, she drafted and co-presented the AMA’s new Indigenous Health Policy Statement, which will guide the association’s efforts to promote and support Indigenous health.

“There are major inequities in Indigenous health and we must do better. Reconciliation includes working together towards equitable care for all Indigenous peoples,” Dr. Bablitz says.

Dr. William Cherniak

Dr. William Cherniak
CMA Award for Young Leaders (Early Career)

Although he currently practises emergency medicine on the outskirts of Toronto, Dr. William Cherniak may be having the greatest impact on health care a world away, in Uganda.

He is co-founder and chairman of the board at Bridge to Health Medical and Dental, a Canadian charity working in southwestern Uganda. Bridge to Health is a passionate group of medical and dental professionals aiming to provide sustainable medical and dental care in a cost-effective manner. Although currently operating in rural communities in Uganda and Kenya, the charity is looking to expand their work to Rwanda and Namibia, as well as First Nations reserves in northern Ontario.

Dr. Cherniak remembers one of the first moments he decided to get involved in providing care in developing nations. He was in Tanzania, as a first-year medical student, and saw a patient having open abdominal surgery with only local anesthetic, which wasn’t working.

“It was a nightmare to observe and I thought: this shouldn’t happen,” he says.

His commitment to health care in developing nations is also reflected in other ways. As a clinical assistant professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, he has designed and implemented three 10-day courses in rural Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania for students in the Master of Science in Global Medicine program. He’s also developed a course in global health entrepreneurship and one in the integration of medicine and social media.

“I live a double life,” says Dr. Cherniak “I love clinical work, especially in the ER, and I also love program and administration work, with Bridge to Health.”

Dr. Ritika Goel

Dr. Ritika Goel
CMA Dr. William Marsden Award in Medical Ethics

“Beyond simply being frontline providers and having a good understanding of health and the social determinants of health, we have an added responsibility, because of our status in society, to act in a socially accountable manner,” says Dr. Ritika Goel.

As chair of the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s Social Accountability Working Group, Dr. Goel is passionate about physicians’ role in policy development and meeting the priority health needs of Canadians in their neighbourhoods and communities.

Apart from her work at the national level, Dr. Goel’s leadership on ethics and social accountability includes her role as co-chair of the Poverty and Health Committee of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. There, she was involved in designing and delivering an award-winning continuing professional development workshop, “Treating Poverty.”

Her practice is based out of Toronto’s Queen West Community Health Centre, where she serves the homeless and under-housed as well as those with complex mental health and addiction needs. She also works clinically at Sistering, a drop-in centre for homeless and marginalized women.

In the words of a colleague: “Through her work in refugee health care, [her role] as an educator on poverty and anti-oppressive practices, and her advocacy for a universal health care system, Dr. Goel has consistently taken bold steps to enhance ethical and professional behaviour amongst her colleagues.”

Dr. Goel is also a founding member of the OHIP for All campaign, a steering committee member of the Decent Work and Health Network and a board member at Canadian Doctors for Medicare.