Canadian Medical Association

Echoing the voices of grassroots physicians

August 17, 2020

“My different roles in medicine have compelled me to have an understanding of how other people work and to have a respect for what all practitioners do.”  

Growing up in rural New Brunswick, the oldest of eight children, Dr. Ann Collins had always thought about working in the field of medicine. Her father encouraged her dreams and shared his insight.

“He said ‘Ann, I think you’d make a good doctor. Why don’t you think about doing that?’” Dr. Collins recalls. “So that set my future in stone.”

The bossy and confident little girl took that advice, entering medical school at time when women were in the minority. Over the next 30 years, she experienced many sides of medicine, serving for more than two decades as medical director for a local nursing home, working part-time in a hospital emergency department and teaching in Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine, all while running her own family practice.

“There’s nothing dull about this profession,” says Dr. Collins. “My different roles in medicine have compelled me to have an understanding of how other people work and to have a respect for what all practitioners do.”  

Throughout it all, Fredericton has been home. A proud Maritimer, Dr. Collins has deep roots in the community and says she can’t imagine practising elsewhere. She’s known many of her patients for decades and has gotten used to running into them at the Saturday farmers market or on the golf course.

“A patient told me today, ‘You’ve gotten me through a lot of things in life — two babies, a chronic illness, parents dying,’ so there’s that kind of reflection that goes on, as well as the honour of treating some four-generation families.”

Today, that reflection is magnified as Dr. Collins retires from family medicine to take on the presidency of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).  Although she’s the first candidate elected from New Brunswick in 18 years, she’s a familiar face to many, having served on the CMA board of directors for the past seven years. 

Yet Dr. Collins recognizes she is taking on the presidency during an unprecedented time.

“COVID has changed everything.”

The demands of COVID-19 have put enormous strains on physicians, medical learners and the health care system, exposing supply shortages and gaps in traditional care models. And yet it has also encouraged innovations in patient care.

It’s through this lens that Dr. Collins will navigate the next 12 months of her term.

As a family physician, Dr. Collins adapted to the challenges the pandemic presented, switching 50% of the appointments at her clinic to phone consultations after the arrival of COVID-19. Even her 88-year-old mother, who lives in rural New Brunswick, has had her first virtual visit.

“She just thought it was great,” says Dr. Collins. “The opportunity that virtual care is going to provide to increase access in many areas is huge.”

Becoming CMA president is a natural progression for Dr. Collins. She was the first female board chair at the New Brunswick Medical Society, a position she held for five years, and spent several years on the board of governors at St. Thomas University. And by her own account, after seven years as a CMA board member, she is eager to give the presidency her full focus.

“The CMA looks nothing like it did when I started. I’m looking forward to being president at a time when we are mapping our future.”

Above all, Dr. Collins feels the biggest thing she can offer the membership is her voice: that of an experienced, hard-working physician with a vast and diverse background.

“I have deep roots in supporting patients and know the importance of staying connected to them and to the profession.”

The opinions stated by Physician Changemakers are made in a personal capacity and do not reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries.

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