Leading with Humility & Compassion
Those who work with Dr. Chukwuma (Chuck) Abara, will attest that his smile and his unwavering energy is infectious. He is passionate about improving health inequities and access to medical care for minority and racialized groups in Northern Manitoba. Dr. Abara believes strongly that healthy physicians make for healthy patients, which translates to a healthy community. This belief has guided his commitment to improving physician health and wellness for the Northern Health Region as the physician champion for Doctors Manitoba’s Community of Practice project.
Dr. Abara grew up in Nigeria, where healthcare is neither affordable nor accessible to most and chose to study medicine to make a difference in the community. He graduated from medical school at the University of Caladar in Cross River State where he held leadership roles as the President of the Christian Union and General Secretary of the Joint Christian Campus Fellowship. After graduation, Dr. Abara did a one-year internship at the Federal Medical Centre in Umuahia before becoming the Medical Lead at the Ancilla Hospital Ihitte, Ezinihitte Mbaise. There he organized free medical outreach programs for the community and surrounding areas with the help of the sisters of the Hand Maids of the Holy Child Jesus. During his time as Medical Lead, the hospital bed capacity was significantly expanded to better serve the community.
In 2012, as a newcomer physician, he faced multiple hurdles to adjusting to life in Canada as he worked to acquire the requisite training and exams to be certified in Manitoba. He has often faced racism in his time here, but he credits his mentor, Dr. Paul Doucet, and his family support network with giving him the guidance and encouragement needed to build resilience and continue on his journey in medicine. Working in Northern Manitoba can have its challenges. The isolation and lack of social and cultural supports at times contribute to making a physicians job in the North difficult. Add to that an overwhelmed health care system because of the pandemic, increased shortages and site closures, and a shortage of doctors, and Northern Manitoba proves to be a difficult region to effectively meet patient care needs.
Dr. Abara recognizes just how important diversity is in health care. Black physicians are not well-represented in medicine in Canada, and he believes that “this disequilibrium drives micro-aggression and bias against people of colour.” When the medical community reflects the people it serves, it gives everyone a sense of belonging and an opportunity to celebrate differences and unique characteristics. He would like to see more Black youth applying to medicine. His advice for young Black people interested in becoming doctors is inspired by the book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. Though the journey may seem arduous and long, just take the next step that you see, after all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Dr. Abara’s approach to leadership is one of humility and care for the colleagues and staff which he works with and the patients for whom he cares. He believes strongly in Simon Sinek’s statement that “leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” People who work with him will tell you he leads with compassion and humility, inspiring those around him to do the same.