When she took the stage at the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) this past August, Dr. Gigi Osler knew she was taking a leadership role in an organization and a profession that was facing significant change.
“Change isn’t easy, but it’s necessary, especially in the world we find ourselves in. And sometimes we have to disrupt the way we’ve always done things to find a better way moving forward,” she explained to an audience of physicians who had gathered in her hometown of Winnipeg. While some people see the road ahead for the medical profession as a daunting challenge, Dr. Osler chooses to see this as an important opportunity.
To understand her passion for medicine, look no further than her upbringing. Dr. Osler was born and raised in Winnipeg and is a proud promoter of “The Peg.” Her mother was a nurse and her father a family physician. If that wasn’t enough, her great, great, great uncle-in-law was the famous Sir William Osler. Take one look at her family tree and there’s no question she was born to be a leader in medicine.
A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Dr. Osler is the head of the Section of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at St. Boniface Hospital and is an assistant professor with the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Manitoba. She has also taken her expertise internationally, working with Canadians Helping Kids in Vietnam and volunteering to help train other surgeons in Africa.
So, as CMA president, what are her priorities for the next year?
“What we’re looking to do is change medical culture to make it a healthy place for everyone,” she told her colleagues at the AGM. This means creating a healthy workforce and thinking innovatively about physician health and the strategies needed to improve it. She knows Canada’s physicians are burnt out and that this can influence the care that patients receive. She understands that healthy physicians lead to quality care for patients.
As a woman of colour, she also hopes to work toward more diversity in the profession, including more representation of traditionally under- represented groups in leadership roles. With women representing 55% of medical students in Canada, the face of medicine is changing, which offers the potential for a more inclusive workforce that can provide exceptional care to Canadian patients.
Supporting the CMA’s advocacy will also be an important part of Dr. Osler’s role. She hopes to continue the association’s work on cannabis, the opioids crisis, seniors care and much more. In connection with these efforts, the CMA hopes to advocate for sufficient postgraduate training positions while it continues to work with provincial, territorial and federal governments to help improve our overall health care system.
Lastly, she hopes to continue working with her colleagues on a range of important issues as the CMA enters a new era of engaging with its members. “Communities of interest and member proposals are just two of the ways we are empowering our members to make a real difference in Canadian health care,” explains Dr. Osler. As we head into unfamiliar territory, Dr. Osler recognizes that first and foremost, the CMA will continue to be a strong national voice of the profession.