Gala Extravaganza

Doctors Manitoba celebrates in style at new and improved annual party at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Written by Robin Summerfield

View more photos of the Gala here.

It was clear that this was no ordinary affair. A group of women, scattered at tables throughout the ballroom, wore brightly coloured feather fascinators in their hair. Baristas at a pop-up coffee bar served late-night lattés to guests. Friends and colleagues wrapped their arms around each other and struck fun poses at the instant photo booth.

The 2019 Doctors Manitoba’s Annual Awards Gala was an affair to remember.

“The gala this year was an EVENT,” says Past-President Dr. Aaron Chiu. “Past galas were pleasant events but this year was fun and exciting.”

This year, Doctors Manitoba moved the AGM and gala to The Canadian Museum for Human Rights from the Fort Garry Conference Centre, its previous venue. A pre- dinner cocktail party, which included the ‘PRN Punch’ signature cocktail, was held inside the museum’s Garden of Contemplation, a bright, sunlit and open space. Guitarist and singer Keith Macpherson performed while guests mixed and mingled.

After the AGM and cocktail party, guests wandered down the looping walkway inside the CMHR, making their way to the main-floor ballroom, where 40-tables were set beautifully for dinner. The evening had an intimate feeling even though nearly 400 guests attended, making it the largest gala hosted by Doctors Manitoba.

The dinner opened with a special blessing from Anishinaabe elder Dave Courchene. He called on everyone to become more connected to the earth   and nature as that connection can actually boost your physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Fit Kids Healthy Kids, a program that encourages and supports kids to become more active through programs and events, also took a bigger role in this year’s gala. Doctors Manitoba has been a long-time supporter of the program. This year, that support was amplified at the gala. A short video about the active-living program was shown and donation cards were tucked inside every  gala program.

“Adding new elements, like our video  montage  and slide show, changing the venue and having a musician playing before and after dinner made this year’s gala lively and refreshing,” says Dr. Shannon Prud’homme, who ended her year-long term as President of the Board at the gala. (Dr. Fourie Smith was officially inducted as Doctors Manitoba’s new President in a special passing on the Chain of Office ceremony that night.)

“Especially this year, there was a blend of traditional elements with new elements. Maintaining elements of tradition reminds us of all the great work that has been done in the past by members of the profession as well as the improvements in care and medical developments that have taken place,” Dr. Prud’homme says.

Those traditional elements included the presentation of the Canadian Medical Association Honorary Member Awards. This year’s honorary members include: Dr. Jagmit Arneja, Dr. Allan Becker, Dr. Harold Booy, Dr. Catherine Cook, and Dr. James Ross.

The evening was also a chance to shine a light on the outstanding work of several Manitoba doctors, during the annual Doctors Manitoba Annual Awards ceremony. This year’s recipients included: Dr. Deborah Wirtzfeld, Scholastic; Dr. Don Klassen, Health Administration; Drs. Kenneth Kasper and Laurie Ireland, Health or Safety Promotion; Dr. Terry Colbourne, Resident of the Year; Dr. Gerard McCarthy, Dr. Jack Armstrong Humanitarian (Posthumously); Dr. Wes Palatnick, Distinguished Service; and Dr. Joanna Lynch, Physician of the Year.

“Doctors Manitoba wants to  celebrate  our members, recognizing their work, their contributions and their visions for better healthcare for the people of Manitoba,” Dr. Prud’homme says. “Being a physician is a tireless job that doesn’t end when you go home at night and recognizing the dedication  that our members have for their calling and for their patients is of paramount importance. We value our members for their contributions and dedication and we want to celebrate this.”

The celebration included at least one touching moment during the evening. Dr. McCarthy’s Humanitarian award was accepted by his son, Dr. Brendan McCarthy. He spoke about the dedication his father, an ob/gyn, had for his patients and his commitment to passing on his knowledge to  new generations of physicians. After Brendan’s speech, about 30 of the late physician’s colleagues, mentees, and former residents, who all purposely came en mass to the gala, gave a long standing ovation.

“It is the evening we celebrate our colleagues for their achievement, recognizing those who deserve recognition and who often may not receive the daily accolade they deserve for their dedication to their patients and to the profession,” adds Dr. Chiu.

This year’s gala also had some new faces.

“There was a greater cross-section of medical professions at the gala: from students, residents, practicing physicians and retired physicians,” says Dr. Chiu.

Indeed, Dr. Chiu’s wife, family physician Leslie Chiu purchased a table for the evening and invited a group of first and second year-medical students.

“Our eldest daughter is in the first year class and the students were her friends and classmates. That made the evening more special for us. We got to experience it through the eyes of our most junior colleagues! And they were excited and thrilled to be there and to hear the stories of award recipients,” says Dr. Chiu, a neonatologist.

Many awards recipients also brought their children and grandchildren, including some infants. The multi- generational crowd added a dynamism and energy to the mix.

After dinner, the museum opened its main-floor Mandela exhibit and guests walked through the powerful and moving tribute to the anti-apartheid leader. Musician Keith Macpherson entertained the crowd, bookending the celebration with his live music.

The new-and-improved gala has set a new standard for how Doctors Manitoba celebrates and recognizes physicians in this province.

While doctors may have lost some opportunities to connect with one another as they dedicate more and more time to their patients, “we are a community,” says Dr. Prud’homme, “and we need space as a group to congregate, celebrate and commemorate. The gala provides such a space and hopefully over the next few years as we continue to refresh the evening, the value to our members will grow and along with that I hope we outgrow the current venue.