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​Lessons from the UK, US on medical professionalism “burning platform”

Physicians attending a workshop session on medical professionalism heard two international perspectives – from the United Kingdom and the United States – on the need for physicians and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to drive discussions on professionalism.

CMA President Dr. Cindy Forbes opened the session, citing how technological, demographic and social issues are having a major impact on the way physicians practice and on the profession as a whole.

Dr. Mark Porter, Chair of Council from the British Medical Association (BMA) provided a history of professionalism from the UK perspective, including an overview of the BMA's Medical Professionalism Matters To Me campaign.

Porter described how a number of high-profile cases in the late 1990s resulted in a major shift away from professional self-regulation in the UK and essentially created the "burning platform" for medical professionalism to become an issue in the UK.

Dr. Andrew Gurman, President of the American Medical Association (AMA), reinforced the important role of political advocacy and the need for physicians to be actively aware of, and engaged in, government health care initiatives at all levels.

He provided several examples of how the AMA and its members have engaged with U.S. Congress and the Administration on several major health reform bills enacted in the last decade, resulting in increased access to care, meaningful investments in prevention and wellness, and the elimination of insurance abuse.

Dr. Hartley Stern, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer at the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), provided the Canadian context and shared his perspective on why the CMPA, the CMA and other national associations need to tackle medical professionalism here at home.

Part of this work involves reconciling the need for physicians to provide excellent care in a system that demands increased productivity and cost effectiveness, and developing the trust to establish the policies and procedures to make this happen.

The workshop session was closed to media to allow members, delegates and observers to have an open and frank dialogue on the challenges and issues facing the profession.

"At the session we heard lots of discussion around system-level talk, which is very relevant right now with a number of provinces going through contract negotiations and looking at how physicians interface with the system, both in terms of financial considerations and also at the leadership level," said Dr. Jeff Blackmer, Vice-president of Medical Professionalism at the CMA. "Beyond that is the larger question of what voice do physicians have at that leadership table to effect system change? These are the issues that the CMA will be looking at over the next couple of years and we will continue to bring General Council delegates into that conversation."

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