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Ontario Medical Review
Jan. 3, 2023
Dr. Rose Zacharias
OMA President

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.

Doing right by patients

OMA positions doctors as thought leaders to help build a better health-care system

Reflecting on my leadership journey as OMA president, several themes emerge. I have learned so much about myself, about the Ontario Medical Association and about leadership in general.   

I was drawn to medicine for the academic challenge and for the relationships I could cultivate. It’s a privilege when someone trusts you with their life. Although I intended to open a comprehensive family practice, I chose shift work in the emergency department, as a hospitalist and surgical assisting, simply for the flexibility it afforded me as a mom. My husband is a pediatrician and together we have raised four kids who are now teenagers. I found my niche within the diversity of family practice where I was able to do both my doctoring and mothering, feeling entirely present in both those spheres of my life. I am grateful I didn’t have to choose one over the other. But not having a comprehensive family practice meant I never developed the long-term relationships with my patients and their families I had envisioned. My clinical work felt a bit lonely.

Three years ago, I began a quest for professional fulfilment. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I would find it inside medicine. So much of what I was doing at the time felt repetitive and void of deep meaning. The best relationships I had in my work were with my team; the nurses, fellow physicians and some of the administrative staff at our hospital. And yet, I didn’t feel like I was having an impact. Becoming involved at the OMA changed all of that.

I have learned so much about this organization that represents all 43,000 physicians in Ontario. The OMA is positioning us to be public thought leaders and then, more personally, is getting in the corner of doctors themselves. To be for them, when it feels like many things are against them. Right now, three years into a pandemic, we don’t have enough beds, nurses, system integration or digital solutions and yet we go to work and care for our patients every day, anyway. Because we are their doctors. It’s hard to explain the depth of commitment and responsibility a doctor feels for their patient and the sacrifices we will make to do right by them. Our role is also to explain this to the government that pays us and builds our health-care infrastructure so that our patients get the care they need and deserve. Often our patients don’t get great care, even though they have a wonderful doctor. I am optimistic the hard work we are doing now is moving the dial inside our system and when things get better, we will be the leaders who spoke up, leaned in and took action toward a better day.

Thank you. You are someone’s doctor, and I am so proud of you.