Fresh from the CMA’s Annual General Meeting and Health Summit in Toronto, where he connected with hundreds of members, Dr. Sandy Buchman is turning his attention to one of the first tasks of his newly-minted presidency – putting health care back on the agenda during the fall federal election.
“My job is to highlight health issues, at a national level, because this is when politicians are listening.” – Dr. Sandy Buchman, CMA president
The CMA’s focus during the campaign includes virtual care, access to care, seniors care, climate change and health, youth mental health and pharmacare.
A family physician, Dr. Buchman brings more than 36 years of medical expertise and leadership to the CMA. He’s past president of both the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
But it’s his work in palliative care that has defined his career. Dr. Buchman recalls the first person for whom he provided end-of-life care. In 1984, he started treating a patient for an illness that would later become known as HIV/AIDS. The patient asked Dr. Buchman to look after him until his eventual death.
That experience taught Dr. Buchman a lot about compassion and social justice. Over the years, he continued to offer palliative care and became a recognized leader in the field. Since 2005, he has provided home-based end-of-life care through Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. He also works for a palliative care program in downtown Toronto through Inner City Health Associates, which helps ease the pain, symptoms and psychosocial needs of the homeless. He currently serves as the medical lead for a group working to build a new residential hospice in the city and was recently granted a chair in palliative medicine at North York General Hospital.
Palliative care and its focus on compassion has informed Dr. Buchman’s leadership style. He says one of the long-term goals of his presidency is to improve physician health and wellness by creating environments where people feel safe and supported.
“I want to address the culture in which we train and work,” Dr. Buchman says, referring to toxic behaviours such as harassment and physician ‘shame-and-blame’ that he believes can result from a stressed-out profession.
He is proud the CMA has started tackling these issues, both through its new Code of Ethics and Charter of Shared Values. As president, he wants the CMA to continue this work by promoting what he calls “compassionate leadership.”
“By advocating for inclusion and diversity and respecting and welcoming that into the profession,” he says, “we are showing compassion and creating a culture of safety for people who might not otherwise feel that.”
He believes a more compassionate medical culture will not only help improve patient experiences, it will also inspire physicians to find innovative solutions to health care challenges.
Dr. Buchman has taken a year off his clinical practice to focus on his role as CMA president. He is excited to get started and to give back to his profession.
“I have great anticipation that I have a fantastic opportunity to make an impact at a system level.”