This article originally appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.
Kimberly Moran took the helm of the Ontario Medical Association last month, bringing many years of experience as a health-care leader and advocate to her new position as the OMA’s first woman CEO.
With senior roles at the Ontario College of Family Physicians, Children’s Mental Health Ontario and UNICEF Canada, Moran is known as an enthusiastic and inspiring leader who prioritizes listening to members and involving them in decision-making and solutions-planning. Moran was also a member of the Premier’s Council on Improving Health Care and Ending Hallway Medicine.
The Ontario Medical Review sat down with Moran to talk about her short- and long-term plans in her new role.
“As organizations, we tend to try to tackle big, complicated problems because health care is big and complicated. And that’s important. But our members face a lot of issues, big and small. We need to be thoughtful about quick wins, things that we can move on quickly so we can alleviate even some of the burden that our members face” — Kimberly Moran, OMA CEO
Q: Welcome to the OMA. Tell us about yourself.
A: Professionally, I’ve had over 30 years of experience in running organizations, most recently in the health-care-policy field and advocacy. I came to health care and advocacy because I had a very personal story — my daughter became severely mentally ill at 11. She’s fine now. She’s a nurse. She recovered. Not all kids do, though.
During that time, I got very interested in why it was so difficult to find care. So, it started as a very personal journey, then ended up being a passion, something I really wanted to focus my career on, which is delivering excellent care to Ontarians by making vast improvements in the health-care system. In the last number of years, I’ve also gotten very interested in doctors and the value they offer in the system, but also the struggles they’re experiencing. What are the issues they’re facing and what are the solutions that we could drive to help them? That’s why becoming the CEO of the OMA was so attractive.
I was also attracted by the great team at the OMA. I’ve spent 15 years in health care in Ontario. I’ve had intersections with OMA staff all the way along. So, I knew the calibre of the team at the OMA. It’s very exciting to join a high-performing team as CEO.
Q: Describe some of the biggest challenges facing physicians in the next five to 10 years.
A: What we’ve heard loud and clear is that the administrative burden is untenable. As a CPA by profession, someone who understands administration and processes, when I see the administrative environment that doctors work in, it’s not acceptable. It’s cutting across all specialties, the time doctors are spending on sometimes unnecessary and inefficient administration. Then there is the bottleneck in emergency departments, which affects all doctors. And thirdly, there’s the issue of alternative-level-of-care patients, who really impact the flow in the health-care system.
We’ve identified the issues and there are excellent solutions in the Prescription for Ontario reports. Now we need to bring it over the finish line to really get government to act on these challenges.
Q: What are your main priorities for your first six months as CEO?
A: The first thing is to emphasize that we are a member-centric organization. I need to spend a lot of time with members. I’m going to be very visible. I want to go to meetings, events, I want to be invited places – please, invite me places! I want to deeply understand the issues that are important to our members. I’ve thought about where I’ve been successful in member organizations over the past number of years, and that is by taking the time at the beginning to deeply understand the member issues.
I have some very good relationships across all political parties that I’ve developed, and with their staff and with civil servants who work tirelessly within the Ministry of Health. We’re going to be leveraging all those relationships. They’ve worked with me long enough that they know who I am. They know that I have a calm leadership style, but I’m persistent in terms of advocating for our members. I’m also a bit impatient to get solutions on the ground and get results. But I recognize that advocacy is a long game sometimes.
Q: If advocacy is a long game, how do you maintain momentum, resiliency and calm in the storm?
A: You have to celebrate small achievements. You have to be resilient and undaunted. You have to continue to march forward, even when it’s hard. I would say that it takes all of us, all of our members, all of our staff working in unison. It’s going to take our partners as well, partner organizations, to align and speak with the same voice to get government to move on some of the things that are very important. If we have a divided voice, it dilutes the advocacy. Government looks for division between members or between organizations or between parts of the health-care system, and they may use that as a reason not to move forward.
I want to make sure that we are united in what we want to advocate for. And the only way we can do that is to make sure solutions are co-developed by our members. We’re never going to get buy-in from members until we co-develop the solutions because then we can lock arms together and say, “this is the right approach and let’s go advocate.”
“I want to make sure that we are united in what we want to advocate for. And the only way we can do that is to make sure solutions are co-developed by our members”
Q: A new strategic plan was recently approved. What does that mean for doctors?
A: The strategic plan is very important because it’s a product of the board and was the result of extensive consultations with members. It is our organization’s roadmap for what we want to achieve. It’s important that members know the organization follows best practice and has a strategic plan. But what members really want to see is why it matters to them. “What are you actually going to deliver to me? How is it going to change my practice today?” We, as an organization, must keep laser-focused on that fact.
I feel very much for our members when I hear them say, “I’m going to leave the profession, or I just can’t practise here in Ontario anymore.” That has to change. As an organization, we have to look at the critical and urgent issues members have, to stop that flow out of different specialties and out of the province. What the strategic plan does is give us the roadmap to get there. And now, as CEO with this great team around me, we need to deliver.
Working with our members hand-in-hand is how we will get it done. They have the wisdom, they have the answers and if we listen carefully, we can pull the right solutions forward, get buy-in from physicians, then advocate relentlessly to government. That’s our job.
Q: There’s a lot that needs to be done to improve conditions for our doctors. What are some examples of issues that can be tackled in the short term?
A: It doesn’t always have to be the big things. As organizations, we tend to try to tackle big, complicated problems because health care is big and complicated. And that’s important. But our members face a lot of issues, big and small. We need to be thoughtful about quick wins, things that we can move on quickly so we can alleviate even some of the burden that our members face. I want to challenge everybody to think about the small things that we can do to change things for our members. And it’s not always advocating to government. It could be a great insurance product. It’s having our phones answered faster. It’s answering emails promptly. It’s also about working closely with the physicians, understanding their issues and finding solutions. Even if we save a doctor an hour a week, what a win! Collectively, let’s see what we can do to really drive solutions to members.
Q: Your last job was as CEO and president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. How are you going to advocate for the needs of our specialist members as well?
A: I do have recent experience in family medicine, but I’ve also got 15 years in understanding broader health-care-system policy. I was special adviser to the dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto and have co-authored several research papers in pediatric psychiatry. These experiences broaden my understanding of some of the issues that all doctors face, and I have some familiarity with the issues in different specialties. I have lots of work to do to deeply understand, though, and that’s the work that I want to do right away. I want to spend a lot of time with members to understand what are the issues that are causing the problems.
Having the background in family medicine is good because family doctors make up almost half of our members, and they are also foundational in the health-care system. In my experience, many of the issues cut across different specialties. They may show up in different ways, but there’s a lot of things that I can see as trends across the system.
All specialties are going to experience shortages. In some specialties, we’re seeing that happen right now – in family medicine, in psychiatry. It’s because of the working conditions and it’s also demographics. What that’s going to mean is a substantial change in how physicians practise and deliver medicine. In the long term, we’ve got to be thoughtful about that.
“I have some very good relationships across all political parties that I’ve developed, and with their staff and with civil servants who work tirelessly within the Ministry of Health. We’re going to be leveraging all those relationships”
Q: You are the first woman CEO in the OMA’s 144-year history. What does it mean to have a woman at the top of this influential association?
A: It’s exciting for me. It was one of the reasons I was interested in the job. For women in the organization, it shows that the career path is not limited in any way, all the way up to the CEO role. It’s the same signalling to women physicians. It’s important they see that the board chair and the CEO are women. Women lead differently and I think that my collaborative leadership style has been a key factor in my success, particularly in building coalitions across partners to effect change. We know that women make up 50 per cent of the membership of the OMA, so we should be reflective of that in the management team. It’s another way of being member-centric.
Q: What is your proudest moment as a health-care leader?
A: One proud moment was when I received all-party recognition in the Ontario legislature for my health-care advocacy focused on child and youth mental health. We had secured directed funding in the federal-provincial health accord after many years of stagnant funding. It was just so meaningful because advocacy is a long-term game and often you have to measure in inches, instead of miles. And to have that recognition from people I respected was very, very meaningful to me.
On the personal front, my proudest achievement is being a mom to two great young women. I’m lucky to have a network of friends and family who support me to do the great work I do and now that includes my daughters, who are supporting me as they become young women. It’s very nice to see. And we all work in health care.
Q: And years from now when you look back on your time at the OMA, what will you want to be your proudest moment?
A: I would hope to know that our members feel like they have improved working conditions, compensation and well-being, and they feel very connected. That we are OneOMA, that there’s no division – no OMA corporate versus the members. I’d like to see us linking arms to advance our collective advocacy, our collective work.
This interview has been edited for length.
Georgia Balogiannis is director, Member Editorial Communications at the OMA.