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How the CMA Ambassador program is helping build medical leaders​

Forty-two CMA Ambassadors will be attending the Health Summit in Winnipeg, a record-number of participants for the medical leadership program. First created by the CMA in 2014 to introduce medical students, residents and early-career physicians to medical policy, the program now boasts nearly 275 participants, and continues to grow.  

ER resident Dr. Justin Hall was still in medical school when he signed up for the very first CMA Ambassador group. As a news junkie, Hall saw the connection between politics and health policy and wanted the skills to make the health system better.

In April, he was sponsored by the CMA Ambassador Program to attend the Canadian Conference on Physician Leadership (CCPL) in Vancouver. He says the experience made him realize that even as a medical resident, he has the power to make change.  

“There’s a lot that can be done by people who don’t necessarily see themselves as big-L leaders,” explains Dr. Hall. 

“We often underestimate the impact we can have just by asking critical questions, by suggesting our [health] system is not ideal and trying to think of innovative solutions.”

University of Calgary medical student Emily Macphail joined the Ambassador Program in 2017, after being involved in the Canadian Federation of Medical Students and the Alberta Medical Association. 

“It has helped my understanding [of medicine] in ways that my lectures on physiology didn’t,” says Macphail. Macphail says the physicians she has met through the ambassador experience have also changed her perspective on future.

“People end up going down paths they would’ve never expected, by taking the opportunities that are open to them, and taking risks,” she explains. “Maybe there are more avenues that I see.”

Dr. Goldis Mitra became an ambassador during her residency and is now a family physician providing care in both inpatient and outpatient settings in Greater Vancouver. After attending CCPL, through the Ambassador Program, Dr. Mitra says she was able to apply the skills she learned right away − in her own practice.

Dr. Mitra says she now starts everyday by asking herself, “Where I can I find one thing that’s already working, build on that, and encourage the team to follow?”

“As front-line providers, we see so many things that can be fixed,” says Dr. Mitra. "If you have the tools to bring about change, you go to work with a little more pep in your step.”

Both Dr. Hall and Dr. Mitra agree that advances in technology, treatments, and service models are making the health care system more and more complex. Medical leadership will need to keep evolving, and the Ambassador Program is one way to help ensure Canada’s newest physicians see themselves as leaders.

“Getting physicians who want to make the health system better involved − early in their careers − can help build leadership capacity,” says Dr. Mitra. “And I think that is what we need in medicine, quality leadership.”  

​You can join the CMA Ambassador Program here. Watch for the ambassadors at the CMA Health Summit in August; they’ll be the participants with orange lanyards.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.