THUNDER BAY, Ont., May 6, 2022 — Dr. Rose Zacharias, a family physician with a hospital-based practice, has become the 141st president of the Ontario Medical Association. Dr. Zacharias began her one-year term at the association’s Annual General Meeting in Thunder Bay on Thursday night.
Dr. Zacharias’ priorities for her presidency include advocating for patients and the province’s 43,000 physicians as the two-year COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of moving into an endemic phase. She will also be working with the government and health-care partners to repair the cracks in the health-care system exposed by the pandemic.
The OMA has a plan for how to make health care better over the next four years, Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care. Ontario’s doctors are encouraging all political parties to adopt its recommendations as part of their platforms for the June 2 election.
“Inside (Prescription for Ontario) are achievable ideas to get rid of dangerous wait times, stamp out the stigma around mental health, figure out how everyone gets the care they need in the hospital and then continues to be cared for, seamlessly, in the community,” Dr. Zacharias told the AGM in her first speech as president. “It outlines how to competently navigate the next public health crisis, while preserving the economy for Ontario. And we will do it as teams of providers contributing meaningfully, and on purpose, spending less time documenting (paperwork) and more time doing what doctors do best — seeing and listening and caring for people.”
Dr. Zacharias, who lives in Oro-Medonte, Ont., has practiced as an emergency department physician, a hospitalist and surgical assistant, primarily at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. She currently works in a COVID-19 screening unit and provides medical coverage to psychiatry in-patients at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health in Penetanguishene. She received her medical degree from McMaster University and did her residency at Western University. She has been a member of the Ontario Medical Association Board of Directors since 2020.
Dr. Zacharias’ advocacy work has focused on physician mental health and wellbeing. She is involved in physician wellness initiatives, from implementing a peer support program at the start of the pandemic to involvement in the Organizational Wellness Network at the OMA’s Physician Health Program.
Dr. Zacharias succeeds Dr. Adam Kassam as OMA president. During his presidency, Dr. Kassam elevated the profile and voice of physicians with the public, governments and stakeholders to new heights. He led the profession during the pandemic, helped with vaccine education and administration, and launched the OMA’s Prescription for Ontario while playing a central role in the new governance model for the organization. Dr. Kassam was instrumental in leading the OMA through negotiations and ratification of the new Physician Services Agreement with the Ontario Ministry of Health.
“Looking back over the past year, we brought together stakeholders and system partners as the pandemic unfolded and our responsibility grew,” Dr Kassam said in his final speech as president — his first and last in-person speech to the OMA because of pandemic restrictions.
“We were called upon countless times to help educate and navigate the public through this crisis. We were leaned upon by government and industry to help protect workers and the economy. And we are now being tasked with helping a recovery of our health-care system and society, which will prove to be unpredictable and challenging. And, even in the face of our own struggle, our own battles with burnout and fatigue, bullying and harassment, directives and shutdowns — you have continued to step up with professionalism, selflessness and a spirit of enduring service to your patients and communities.”
Dr. Kassam will continue to serve the OMA as past-president.
“I want to congratulate Dr. Adam Kassam on a successful term as president,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette. “Dr. Kassam was a champion for fixing the gaps in our health-care system, and an outstanding spokesperson for Ontario’s doctors.”
OMA members chose Dr. Andrew Park, and emergency physician from London, Ont., as their president-elect in January. Dr. Park will work close with Dr. Zacharias throughout her presidency.
This AGM in Thunder Bay is the first in what the OMA plans to be an annual hybrid virtual and in-person meeting that will rotate through the 11 OMA districts.
The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario’s 43,000-plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario’s health-care system.
For more information, please contact:
Leslie Shepherd, OMA Director of Earned and Social Media
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