Canadian Medical Association should assist with medical education

Posted on August 22, 2018 in Health Debates – Opinion/Contributors
Aug. 22, 2018.   By

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) convened in Winnipeg this week and hosted its inaugural health summit, which brought together health-care professionals, innovators and policy experts from across the country. The goal of the conference was to support the CMA 2020 strategic vision using this year’s theme of disruptive innovation to inspire a future of better health.

While technological change and its impact on health care was a primary focus, a long overdue changing of the guard also took place. Dr. Gigi Osler was officially sworn in as president — representing one of a precious few minority females to lead a national medical body anywhere in the world. Her stewardship of the organization, however, begins at a challenging time for the profession, as it copes with endemic physician burnout and dissatisfaction.

Complicating matters, her presidency comes on the heels of the widely criticized sale ofMD Financial for $2.5 billion. The lack of consultation and transparency by the board with its members, and little by way of details for what the proceeds will be used toward, has left many doctors feeling betrayed by the CMA leadership.

This builds on a broader narrative that physicians have lost faith in the organization’s ability to advocate for their needs. This was recently made clear by the decision of the Ontario Medical Association to no longer collect CMA dues stating that the national organization had abandoned “its role as the official voice of physicians on federal issues affecting doctors across Canada.”

The CMA is not likely bothered by this loss of revenue given its recent financial windfall. However, it should be concerned about a growing rift between the national and provincial/territorial medical associations. Indeed, the new proposed governance changes may serve to further alienate grassroots physicians across Canada, many of whom represent the bedrock of front-line medicine.

One way for the CMA to re-establish the trust of Canadian physicians would be for it to use its new fortune to support the education of doctors and medical students. For example, it could establish a program to finance the costly continuing medical education that all doctors are required to complete, often at their own expense.

Alternatively, the CMA could follow the blueprint of New York University, which announced that tuition would be free for all medical students. By using the billions of dollars from the sale, the CMA would be able to cover the tuition for over 30,000 medical students, assuming a four-year curriculum at an average annual cost of $20,000.

This would have a transformative impact on our health care system and on the vital recruitment of students regardless of their ability to pay, which is known to be a significantbarrier.

Ultimately, the CMA and its leadership must focus on the personal, emotional and financial well-being of current and future physicians if it hopes to make a meaningful impact in the years ahead.

Adam Kassam (@AdamKassamMD) is a senior resident physician in the department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Western University.

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