Canadian Medical Association

A year like no other

How we pivoted to support physicians and Canadians during a global pandemic, and continue to reimagine the future of health, health care and the medical profession.

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Pressing for government action on PPE

By highlighting how a lack of personal protective equipment threatened physicians’ and Canadians’ health, in meetings with the federal health minister and in appearances before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health and the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

“Asking health care workers to be on the frontlines of this pandemic without the proper equipment is unacceptable. People’s lives are on the line.” 

– CMA Past President Dr. Sandy Buchman, speaking before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

By surveying members multiple times during the pandemic to create an up-to-date assessment of PPE availability across the country, and using this data to urge the federal government to respond to the need for more supplies.

Addressing the financial impacts on physician practices

By commissioning tax and accounting firm MNP to assess current federal COVID-19 assistance programs and developing a detailed guide on how they could be leveraged by physicians and learners in a variety of practice settings.

By advocating for changes to federal programs — resulting in the government expanding eligibility to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, and allowing physicians in cost-sharing arrangements to qualify.

By calling for additional measures to support front-line workers, including a new tax deduction.

Calling for long-term care reform

By pressing for immediate action to better protect elderly Canadians in long-term care, and welcoming the federal government’s release of interim guidance on infection prevention and control of COVID-19 in these facilities.

By forwarding recommendations to improve seniors care, provide more support for seniors to age in place and create a national, common approach to modernizing long-term care models across the country.

Getting physicians the information they need

By creating pandemic-specific resources on practice management, adopting virtual care, maintaining wellness, ethical decision-making and more.

By publishing regular updates on the CMA’s COVID-19 response in our President’s Letter.

By focusing on pandemic research and consolidating a list of 145 articles, 75 blog posts, news and podcasts on COVID-19 through the CMAJ website.

By providing focused clinical guidance and tools on the virus through Joule, including curated evidence-based articles and resources, weekly POEMs research briefs, priority clinical search services, and the only centralized repository for current COVID-19 Canadian clinical practice guidelines through the CPG Infobase.

Giving the public trustworthy guidance

By launching a Stop the Spread campaign in the early days of the pandemic, to highlight the importance of physical distancing, handwashing and other public health directives, and publishing it in seven languages.

By developing and sharing resources for the public on accessing care during the pandemic, adapting to virtual care, navigating back to school with children, and more.

“Navigating the myriad of perspectives [on COVID-19] can be overwhelming and can add another level of anxiety. Our goal is to make it easier as we go through this period together.”

— CMA Past President Dr. Sandy Buchman

By creating in partnership with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, to provide quality responses to the public’s COVID-19 questions. More than 150 questions have been answered to date, and the site has been viewed more than 85,000 times.

Collaborating to share the physician perspective

By meeting regularly with the federal government, and convening a pan-Canadian meeting between the health minister and the provincial/territorial medical association presidents to highlight priorities for their COVID-19 response. Shortly after, the Throne Speech outlined substantial commitments in many of these same areas, including long-term, primary and virtual care.

“We continue to work together to ensure medical professionals have the federal support they need to provide excellent care across Canada.”

— Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu

By redoubling advocacy efforts amid the second wave of the pandemic, calling for more federal support for health workers in front of the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health, and joining forces with the provincial/territorial medical associations to demand more health care funding from all levels of government.

By creating a Post-Pandemic Expert Advisory Group of experts from medicine, allied health, economics, public health and the patient perspective, to provide insights into the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic.

Funding to fight COVID-19

The CMA Foundation committed over $36 million to address urgent needs and build resiliency in health care and beyond, supporting research, the medical profession and vulnerable populations in cities and communities across the country.

For front-line health care workers

  • Providing medical equipment, supplies and supports such as PPE, digital infrastructure for virtual care and counselling to front-line workers at more than 240 hospitals, through a $5 million donation to the Frontline Fund for Healthcare Workers and a $5 million fund for smaller community hospitals.
  • Supporting family physicians in adapting their practices through a $5 million grant to the Foundation for Advancing Family Medicine’s COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Impact Grant Program.
  • Assisting people working in long-term care to make immediate improvements to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19 in their facilities through $2 million in funding to the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.

“In March, nobody had time for a webinar or a national huddle, but now we do. We’re all in this together and nobody’s got it figured out, but we can help one another along.”

— Julie Weir, New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes

  • Funding virtual care research and implications for access, equity, experience, cost and outcomes of care for Canadians through a $2.5 million grant to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
  • Helping doctors provide essential medical care in regions without pre-existing health systems, through a $250,000 grant to the Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières COVID-19 Crisis Fund.

For medical learners

  • Addressing financial hardships experienced by medical students and residents through $5 million in grants to Canada’s 17 medical schools.

“We value the impact this critical gift will have in helping our medical students meet their current challenges and succeed in their studies and training to become our nation’s future physicians.”

— Representatives from the University of Manitoba

For vulnerable populations

“Getting low-income seniors connected so they can contact their doctors and their families is really important. They’ve been more isolated than a lot of seniors.”

— Joseph Silva, director of strategies and partnerships, community health and services with York Region

For youth

  • Increasing access to digital mental health services for youth through a $250,000 grant to

“With funding and support from the CMA Foundation, we can continue working to ensure that young people are prepared to take care of themselves and look out for one another during this time of crisis.”

— Jesse Hayman, Vice President,

Providing $4.6 million to provincial/territorial medical associations and other medical organizations to help meet physicians’ needs on the ground.

Contributing $200,000 to the Code Life Ventilator Challenge, a competition to create a simple, low-cost, easy-to-manufacture and easy-to-maintain ventilator.

Both projects were funded through the CMA’s Affinity agreement with Scotiabank and MD Financial Management.


Making physician health and wellness our priority

By helping physicians cope with COVID-19, publishing a series of resources on maintaining wellness during a pandemic, recognizing burnout, coping with psychological distress and more.

“I don’t think it’s a disgrace to need help. I do think it’s a disgrace that we work in a culture that still has a tendency to frame situations that way.”

— Dr. Jillian Horton, host of the Joule COVID-19 Learning Series

By providing practical learning opportunities for physicians and learners, including regular webinars on topics from grief and loss to addiction, and online workshops on mindfulness.

By providing new wellness tools for physicians and learners:

  • The Physician Wellness Hub, the first resource of its kind in Canada — a national, online collection of over 300 health and wellness resources to support individual wellness and promote cultural change in medicine.
  • The Wellness Connection, giving physicians and learners free access to physician-led wellness training and peer-support sessions on topics such as stress reduction, mindful parenting, compassion rounds and psychological first aid.
  • The Wellness Support Line, providing free, 24/7 access to timely, high-quality and tailored mental health services for physicians, medical learners and their immediate families — in multiple languages — and filling existing gaps in support across the country. This project was funded through the CMA’s Affinity agreement with Scotiabank and MD Financial Management.

“Yesterday’s medical culture needs to evolve. Today, physicians and medical learners face unique pressures, and we need to ensure that they care for themselves as they care for others.”

— CMA President Dr. Ann Collins

By funding the development of more targeted wellness programs, providing:

  • $15 million to provincial/territorial medical associations, specialty societies and representative groups to meet their members’ most pressing needs, through a partnership with Scotiabank and MD Financial Management.
  • $420,000 to support a research project on physician wellness in Ontario and explore national opportunities for data collection.


Supporting the expansion of virtual care

By recommending 19 legislative and policy changes needed to scale up virtual care in Canada, as part of a national task force with the Royal College and CFPC, and representatives from the medical community, the provincial/territorial medical associations, the medical regulatory bodies, the public and the patient community.

“The patient demand is here, the technology exists. We’re hearing from physicians that they want to deliver care more efficiently.”

— Dr. Gigi Osler, Virtual Care Task Force co-chair for the CMA

By helping Canadians navigate the sudden shift to virtual care during the pandemic, publishing playbooks to help physicians provide safe, effective and efficient telemedicine, and patients get comfortable and prepared for virtual visits.

“It felt really personable. I had more than enough time to get all my questions answered and it was very convenient to be able to do it from home.”

— Medical student Sarah Fletcher on her experience using virtual care

By stressing the need for all those in Canada to have equitable access, recommending that the federal government promote digital health literacy and expand broadband Internet access, including in rural, remote, Northern and Indigenous communities.

By advocating for permanent fee codes for physicians, and funding a project by the Atlantic medical associations to develop compensation recommendations in their jurisdictions.


Improving access to care for Canadians

By calling on the federal government to help expand primary care teams, resume health care services during the pandemic and clear backlogs of medical services, through the creation of a Health Care and Innovation Fund.

“Strengthening primary care through a team-based, inter-professional approach is integral to improving the health of all people living in Canada.”

— 2020 pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

By helping physicians maintain access to services during the pandemic, developing a guide on how they could safely reopen and manage their practice; it covered cleaning protocols, managing visits with symptomatic patients, PPE and more.

“We want CMAJ to be a place for open dialogue and debate about issues that are important to improving our health care systems in Canada.”

— Dr. Andreas Laupacis, CMAJ editor-in-chief

By helping expand access to evidence-based health information, removing the paywall for the CMAJ weekly online edition and making its content more widely available.


Supporting physician-led health innovation

By helping six members scale up their ideas and innovations to address health workers’ safety and wellness, improve access to care and support vulnerable populations amid the pandemic, through $1 million in funding from Joule’s COVID-19 Innovation grant program.

“For someone to be able to do their best work, personal safety needs to be removed from that equation. Masks are that pivotal piece of equipment that makes front-line workers and the general population feel safer.”

— Dr. Susan Ripley

  • Dr. Neil Naik, PPE Access Canada — providing reliable and affordable access to PPE for front-line health care workers.
  • Dr. Heidi Britton, Aemion™ — deploying Aemion™, a coating that can be used on surfaces and fabrics to eliminate pathogens, in hospitals and public health clinics across Canada.
  • Dr. Joseph Ma, Bionic-i Inc. — working to deploy a cost-effective disinfection device to efficiently sterilize clinical environments.

“We found that surgeons who normally see 30 to 40 patients might only see seven to 10 [because of the pandemic]. It had an arresting effect on our surgical practice, and we needed to find a solution.”

— Dr. Joseph Ma

  • Dr. Peter Goldberg, Code Life Ventilator Challenge – Made for All — building a clinical-grade ventilator that can be produced cheaply and easily, anywhere in the world.
  • Ms. Monisha Persaud, Student-Senior Isolation Prevention Partnership — supporting socially isolated seniors during the pandemic by pairing them with student volunteers in their community.

By expanding Joule’s annual Innovation grant program, introducing more funding and two new grant categories: physician health and wellness, and sustainable health care.


Promoting equity and condemning racism in medicine

By releasing a new policy on equity and diversity in medicine, and providing physicians and institutions with guiding principles to inform their work and recommendations for creating more inclusive policy, recruitment, promotion and research practices.

“We need a system that’s culturally safe, where people are not humiliated or debased because of the culture they come from.”

— Dr. Evan Adams, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Indigenous Services Canada and CMA Health Summit Speaker

By speaking out against racism and structural inequities in medicine, and committing to work with equity-relevant populations, including Indigenous partners, to create a more culturally safe and equitable health care system.

“It’s absolutely critical we eradicate racism and inequity within medicine and our health care system. And it’s absolutely critical we do so as soon as possible.”

— CMA President Dr. Ann Collins

By shining more light on the experiences of Indigenous patients, providing support toward the development of an Indigenous health documentary series and educational resources to be released in 2021.


Connecting with members and stakeholders to guide our work and our future

By engaging with members on access to care, physician health and wellness, and visioning the future at a series of six forums and an online discussion — and using their feedback and ideas to shape our work.

“There’s more than one way to provide good patient care, and we need to think about more flexible practice models.”

— Dr. Debrah Wirtzfeld, Calgary member forum participant

By meeting regularly with provincial/territorial medical associations and other stakeholder groups across the country to discuss opportunities for collaboration on issues of mutual concern and interest.

By hearing what issues were top of mind for physicians at our Annual General Meeting in August.

By asking members to help prioritize our future areas of focus in support of our new strategic plan, Impact 2040, with a focus on Canadians’ health, the health care system and the health workforce.


Recognizing the work of physicians and medical learners

By highlighting and championing the work of all physicians, learners and medical professionals amid the challenges of COVID-19 on National Physicians’ Day.

By launching to highlight the dedication, commitment and sacrifice of health care workers during the pandemic and share positive stories from the frontline.

"I'm driven by a moral dedication not just to do things right, but to do the right thing. It's a privilege to work with and be an advocate for people whose voices are seldom heard."

— Vivian Tsang, recipient of the CMA Award for Young Leaders (Student)

By honouring 16 CMA Award recipients for their exceptional contributions to medicine and health care — in the areas of neurology, gun control, palliative care, shared decision-making, mentorship, professionalism, leadership and journalism.


Amplifying the voice of the medical profession

By calling for the basic principles of negotiated agreements to be respected in Alberta, and providing the Alberta Medical Association with financial support for their research, communications and legal efforts.

By growing the CMA’s role in Quebec and shaping provincial health policy discussions, including urging the government there to provide more support for informal caregivers, as part of rethinking their seniors care approach.

“When we’re able to provide seniors with the right care at the right time and the right place, we’ll greatly improve the performance of our health system.”

— CMA Quebec spokesperson Dr. Abdo Shabah, speaking before the Quebec National Assembly

By speaking out on national issues on behalf of the profession in traditional and social media, including public health guidance to combat COVID-19, the need for more PPE to protect front-line workers, and systemic racism within the health care system. The CMA was mentioned almost 11,000 times in traditional media and CMA spokespeople conducted 450 interviews and counting.


Shaping ongoing health policy discussions 


By continuing to highlight the links between climate change and health and calling for government action in partnership with The Lancet, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Global Climate & Health Alliance.

“I knew I couldn't be a doctor without taking an interest in climate change. It increases health risks and exacerbates the problems communities face, such as housing, food and water security, poverty and social inequality.”

— Dr. Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, recipient of the Dr. Brian Brodie Medical Learner Leadership Award (Resident)

By calling for stronger measures to prevent the promotion of vaping products to youth, and providing our feedback to Health Canada on their proposed regulations on the promotion of vaping products.

By informing legislative developments on medical assistance in dying, participating in several federal consultation roundtables and seeking member feedback to inform our policy update.

By working with the CMA Patient Voice and all Canadians to advocate for change through our Health Advocates campaign.