Dr. Monty Ghosh
During the first wave of the pandemic, it became clear that people experiencing homelessness were often unable to self-isolate. Without processes in place, shelters across Canada struggled to contain outbreaks. In Calgary, internist and addiction specialist Dr. Monty Ghosh worked to get ahead of the crisis.
“Colleagues in the sector stated there was pure chaos in the first few weeks of the pandemic,” says colleague Dr. Robert Tanguay. “With no clear authority, Monty pushed forward with a systemic plan.”
Coordinating with social services agencies, other health care leaders and local health authorities, Dr. Ghosh helped establish COVID-19 screening programs, isolation spaces and strategies to combat outbreaks at shelters in the city’s downtown core.
Within weeks, he became a lead in Alberta’s efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless. Since March 2020, he has maintained numerous key roles, including co-chair of both Alberta Health Services’ Shelter Outbreak Task Force and Pan Zonal Emergency Operations Centre for vulnerable populations.
“As a doctor and a patient advocate, I support and collaborate with people facing stigmatized health challenges and inequality due to income, housing and justice concerns,” says Dr. Ghosh.
Creating one of Canada’s largest outpatient addiction treatment programs
Dr. Ghosh’s work with marginalized populations started well before the pandemic. He established Alberta Health Services’ first comprehensive outpatient addiction treatment program, dubbed the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine. The program — which includes supports for individuals to detoxify at home instead of relying on inpatient facilities — has grown to become a lifeline for more than 5,000 clients.
Described as a “big systems thinker” by his colleagues, Dr. Ghosh continues to develop innovative harm reduction measures related to opioid use.
In December 2020, Dr. Ghosh realized a years-long passion project — the launch of a national hotline that opioid users can call when taking substances alone. The hotline is operated by peer support workers with lived experience who can dispatch emergency services to the caller’s home if an overdose occurs.
“It has already saved lives,” says Dr. Tanguay. “If there’s one phrase that summarizes Monty’s passion, it’s ‘innovation for equity.’”
Dr. Monty Ghosh is receiving the CMA Award for Young Leaders (Early Career) in recognition of his exemplary creativity, initiative and commitment to making a difference at the local, provincial/territorial or national level.