Back in May 2023, when Dr. Michael Boroditsky first stood in front of his fellow physicians and introduced himself as the new President of Doctor’s Manitoba, he made a promise: 

I commit to you to invest all my energy into our efforts at Doctors Manitoba to bring hope and joy back to your work. That will come when you are supported by the system with necessary resources, equitable opportunities for growth and learning, true collaboration, and a clear pathway to fulfillment.”

Since then, this commitment has focused Dr. Boroditsky’s efforts. Be it the negotiation of a new Physician Services Agreement, or leading Doctor’s Manitoba’s Getting Healthy campaign, or making sure the voice of physicians was heard loud and clear during the provincial election, the need to bring joy back into the work of physicians has been Dr. Boroditsky’s North Star. 

Gratitude and the Importance of Joy

Dr. Boroditsky’s speech that evening helps us understand where his commitment to joy comes from, and why it’s an important aspect of his leadership. He began his remarks by reflecting on the journey he’s travelled, and more importantly, on the people along the way who have shaped his practice, thinking, and direction. 

Like you,” he said, addressing hundreds of physicians and guests from the podium at the RBC Convention Centre, I feel immense gratitude for the many gifts I have been given by my friends and colleagues, which most notably come in the form of time and love.”

It starts with his family. His father was an accomplished physician leader and his mother worked hard to provide him with a solid foundation of love and support. His wife is a key part of his every success, and he credits his daughters with providing him immeasurable joy, inspiration, and pride. 

They challenge me daily to be a better version of myself,” he said. 

He then looked to the physicians who not only taught him medicine, but changed him forever for the better.” Dr. Mark Heywood and the late Dr. Gary Krepart helped him develop his surgical skills. Dr. Savas Menticoglou pushed him to achieve at higher and higher levels. Dr. Gordie McTavish taught him routine and consistency. Dr. Margaret Burnett added a lightness to his education and an ever-present optimism, and Dr. Maggie Morris showed him how to be tough and compassionate at the same time.

We owe everything to our teachers and mentors,” he said. I raise a glass to all of them tonight.”

He also took a moment to honour the friends and colleagues with whom he relies on for support and advice. Dr. Erin Dean, Dr. Craig Burym, and Dr. Raina Best.

We learned together, we worked together, we laughed, and cried together. The three of them are integral to almost every major professional decision in my life.”

Determination and Overcoming Challenges

His remarks then shifted to a story of his early challenges getting into medical school. With a note of vulnerability, he spoke about someone who changed his life for the better, Mr. Charles Parrag, the former Registrar at University of Manitoba. 

He met Mr. Parrag in the early 90’s when trying to get accepted to medical school. It was a process that took five long years,” with numerous failures and setbacks. 

My grades were average, I am kind of fugally looking and my charm was an acquired taste at best. Mr. Parrag sat patiently with me, as he did with so many prospective students, supporting me in my disappointment, helping me navigate the process to improve. After my fourth failed attempt, I was ready to give up, but he wouldn’t let me. He encouraged me to give it one more try. If it were not for Charles Parrag, I am certain I would not be here today. He changed the course of everything for me. I wish I could have told him one more time. Last year Charles passed away at the age of 77.”

From this story of determination, and being encouraged to follow his dreams, Dr. Boroditsky provide an honest assessment of what it was like to work as a physician today. 

Belonging to our heath care system is difficult right now. Doctors are struggling, not only here in Manitoba but across our country. The pandemic was a challenging experience, to be sure, but our profession was facing challenges before. Today, however, they feel bigger than ever.”

He went on to speak about burnout, which is at all-time highs and causing more and more physicians to leave the profession. There’s also a general sense of feeling under-appreciated and overworked. Escalating overhead costs, an increasingly complex health system, and growing complexity of patient needs are only some of the pressures. 

Some of us are losing hope,” he said. And that means losing our ability to meet each patient’s needs in the process.” 

Bringing Back Joy and Better Serving Patients

After noting the many challenges physicians in Manitoba face every day, Dr. Boroditsky looked ahead with optimism and determination, returning to the sense of joy he finds in his work. He specifically recalled an interaction with a patient that has helped to shape his professional career and the empathy he works to provide as a physician. 

He told the story of a high stress situation, early in his career, when a new mother experienced a severe postpartum hemorrhage. 

I will not forget the sense of urgency. The fear in the new father’s eyes as he held his newborn daughter, watching as we took his wife to the operating room, is still palpable.

Fortunately, because of an amazing clinical team, all ended well. Dr. Boroditsky had almost forgotten about this case until the young couple came to his office a year later, with their one-year-old daughter, on her birthday. 

She was so beautiful, and the pride and joy in her mom and dad’s eyes reinforced the impact we can have as medical professionals.”

It’s because of patients and families like them that Dr. Boroditsky took on the role of President of Doctor’s Manitoba, committing himself to help the organization push for meaningful change to better support physicians, and to help bring joy back to this profession. 

Coming out of the pandemic, there is an opportunity to improve the health care system, and it’s an opportunity we must all seize together. I want to emphasize that word, together, because we must support each other in the process.” 

He went on to note that specialists need to support the drive for primary care renewal just as family physicians need to help press for the resources specialists need to do their jobs. He said urban physicians must better understand the depth and complexity of rural and northern medical challenges, just as rural and northern physicians need to have insight into the lives and burdens of doctors in urban centres. 

We all have a responsibility to ensure those groups who have been underrepresented, underpaid and mistreated in our profession can belong to an inclusive and equitable medical community going forward.” 

Now past the midway point of his tenure as President, Dr. Boroditsky has much to be proud of. The new Physician Services Agreement has secured an historic increase in medical remuneration, among many other benefits. The province-wide Getting Healthy campaign inspired thousands of Manitoban’s to take part, get active, and have fun. Physician health and wellness in rural and northern areas has received a boost with the completion of pilot programs and new investments in resources to help doctors.

As for the remainder of Dr. Boroditsky’s term, he intends to keep working alongside his fellow physicians to build on this good work, together, focusing on the promise he made to doctors. 

I will focus all my effort to bring value, appreciation and joy back to our profession.”