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CMA past presidents receive military appointments

The Canadian Forces Medical Service (CFMS) has awarded significant honorary appointments to two CMA past presidents.

Dr. John Haggie of Newfoundland, who served as president in 2011-12, has been appointed honorary colonel of the Canadian Forces Health Services Centre Atlantic in Halifax, while Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai of Alberta (2005-06) has been named honorary lieutenant-colonel with 1 Field Ambulance in Edmonton.

They join the current CMA president, Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, who was appointed honorary colonel of 1 Field Ambulance in 2011.

Brigadier-General Jean-Robert Bernier, the Canadian Forces surgeon general, says the appointments recognize "extensive support to the CFMS during operations in Afghanistan and in general."

The CFMS, which is expected to undergo a name change to Royal Canadian Medical Service later this year, was heavily involved in Canada's decade-long military operations in Afghanistan. In 2006 - while president - Collins-Nakai paid a visit to medical personnel based there on the CMA's behalf.

Bernier said the appointments have their roots in feudal times, when military units were raised by lords - the colonel - at their personal expense for service to the monarch.

Today, the role is ceremonial. "Basically, the honorary colonel is there to provide an interface between the unit and society at large," says Francescutti. "You're the bridge between the two."

Francescutti, an emergency and preventive medicine physician in Edmonton, said he was "delighted" to accept his appointment. "It is quite a nice family to be welcomed into," he said.

The appointment involves no clinical work, but Francescutti has attended exercises at the army base in Wainwright, Alta., and given a lecture to solders about the treatment of frostbite.

He said the appointment usually involves a commitment of one or two days per month. "I have enjoyed it immensely," he said.

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