The Medical Post’s 2021 Power List

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The 2021 Power List

Cover of Feb. 2021 issue.

Cover of Feb. 2021 issue.

Power is inherently subjective. This 2021 Power List was put together the same way we did the last one just over five years ago: Medical Post journalists reached out to talk off-the-record to doctors in the power structure and asked them which doctors they think have power.

What purpose does putting together a Power List serve? Well, it can help focus Canada’s community of doctors on the question of who among them does have power. What do those people believe is the way ahead for Canada’s healthcare system—and Canada’s doctors?

A power list can influence doctors who are ambitious. And being ambitious, particularly when you are young, is a good thing. For those physicians looking ahead, it can help them figure out how the 30 doctors on our Power List got there.

This 2021 Power List is about the future as well: Some big-name Canadian doctors who have long had significant sway—such as Dr. Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, and Dr. John Haggie, former CMA president and longtime health minister for Newfoundland and Labrador—have not been included. Here, now, is the Medical Post’s 2021 Power List. . . . — Colin Leslie, editor-in-chief

 

 

The Medical Post’s 2021 Power List

By Tristan Bronca, Abigail Cukier, Louise Leger and Colin Leslie

1: Dr. Theresa Tam

01tamChief Public Health Officer of Canada
There’s a well-worn saying in public health that if everything is working according to plan, you’ll hardly realize they’re there at all. During the pandemic, the inverse became true: The people overseeing this infrastructure were rocketed from their positions behind-the-scenes into briefings and press conferences where their audience—from the lay public to the prime minister—hung on their every word.

So given the circumstances, the choice for the most powerful doctor in the country right now is obvious.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the nation’s top public health doctor, has been the leading guide for our country’s top political figures trying to pilot us through this pandemic. Through praise and wicked backlash, she’s remained a steady presence, constantly reasserting her commitment to the best available evidence, even as it seemed to change by the day. —TB

2: Dr. Verna Yiu

2-dr-verna-yiuPresident and CEO of Alberta Health Services
Political insiders say Dr. Verna Yiu has been a stabilizing influence on the massive Alberta Health Services (AHS) since she took over as president and CEO in 2016. AHS is a single-integrated health system delivering care for the province of Alberta: serving more than four million Albertans with a budget of more than $15 billion. To be sure, there’s a lot of tension between Alberta doctors and the provincial government right now, but Dr. Yiu has run AHS with a sure hand. She has made substantial contributions in moving the organization forward, including implementing a single EMR for the province (two phases of the nine now complete), and leading AHS to be recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a national competition that was founded in 1999, for four consecutive years.

Dr. Yiu was born in Hong Kong and earned her MD and FRCPC in pediatrics from the University of Alberta. Beginning in 2000, she started rising through various senior positions at the dean’s office at U of A, and then to interim dean before joining AHS in 2012, starting out as VP of quality and chief medical officer. Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Yiu continued her practice as a pediatric nephrologist at the Stollery Children’s Hospital and intends to return to clinical practice once the pandemic subsides. She is also a professor of pediatrics in the department of pediatrics at the faculty of medicine/dentistry at U of A. —CL

3: Dr. Samir Sinha

3-dr-samir-sinhaInfluencer on seniors and COVID issues
Long respected as a leader in geriatric health, Dr. Samir Sinha has become a go-to expert during the COVID-19 pandemic, advocating for seniors and the need for drastic changes to long-term care in Canada. Media outlets regularly call on him to speak about the pandemic and he uses social media to ask governments to prioritize seniors in policy-making.

The director of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital and the University Health Network in Toronto, Dr. Sinha is co-chair of the National Institute on Ageing at Ryerson University and was the architect of Ontario’s Senior Strategy. He advises hospitals and health authorities in Canada, Britain, the United States and China on innovative models of geriatric care that reduce disease burden, improve access and promote health. —AC

4: Dr. Andrew Furey

4-dr-andrew-fureyNew premier of Newfoundland
Dr. Andrew Furey gets things done. He is an orthopedic trauma surgeon and assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty of Medicine. He also founded Team Broken Earth to provide medical relief after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and published a book about that experience last year. Oh yeah, Dr. Furey is also premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Since becoming premier in August, Dr. Furey has promised solutions to Newfoundland’s $2-billion deficit, ushered in 8,000 $25-a-day daycare spaces across the province and is committed to finding innovative, cost-effective ways to deliver healthcare. (Newfoundland has an election now scheduled for Feb. 13.)

Through Team Broken Earth, more than 1,500 volunteers from across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. have participated in medical missions to Haiti, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Nicaragua. In 2018, Dr. Furey co-founded the A Dollar A Day Foundation, which raises funds to support frontline mental health and addictions programs across Canada. —AC

5: Dr. Gigi Osler

5-dr-gigi-oslerFormer CMA president and equity and diversity champion
When Dr. Gigi Osler was elected the president of the CMA in 2018, she was the first woman of colour and the first female surgeon to take on that important role. The Winnipeg-based ENT surgeon has left the position but her widespread influence continues. Today she is a high-profile champion of equity, diversity and physician well-being. Dr. Osler is the new chair of the Canadian Medical Forum, which brings together medical leaders to strategize on priority healthcare issues. She is also the incoming president of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada. And, in a year when policy around virtual care has become an essential, urgent issue, she co-chairs the Virtual Care Task Force, a collaboration among medical leaders across the country. —LL

6: Dr. Jane Philpott

6-dr-jane-philpottFormer cabinet minister, dean at Queen’s medical school
It was an enviable resume to begin with, and this year FP Dr. Jane Philpott took on another formidable role. The former cabinet minister, global health advocate and educator was appointed dean of the Queen’s University Faculty of Health Sciences and director of the school of medicine, the first woman ever to hold that position. In that role, she has publicly vowed to increase inclusivity, equity and justice in medicine, and to expand the university’s already robust research footprint.

Also this year, the Ontario government appointed Dr. Philpott as the special advisor to support the design and implementation of the new Ontario Health Data Platform, which will provide recognized researchers and health system partners access to anonymized health data that will allow them to better detect, plan, and respond to COVID-19. —LL

7: Dr. Diane Francoeur

7-dr-diane-francoeurHead of Federation of Specialist Physicians of Quebec
Since 2014, when Dr. Diane Francoeur became the first woman to lead the federation that represents Quebec specialists and negotiates their compensations, it has been a bumpy time.

The province’s specialists (family doctors negotiate fees separately in Quebec) had been poorly compensated compared to specialists in other provinces, but after a bitter three-year negotiation period, Dr. Francoeur closed a deal that got big increases for her members. Perhaps too big: The rise in specialist compensation became a campaign issue in the 2018 Quebec election with several parties threatening to tear up the already negotiated fee deal. Indeed, after the election, when the Coalition Avenir Québec led by François Legault won a landslide victory, under pressure, the federation agreed to roll back some of its members’ compensation. Still, the agreement also led to the creation of the Institute of Relevance, making the federation part of the conversation about what medical services should be reimbursed. —CL

8: Dr. Brett Belchetz

8-dr-brett-belchetzCo-founder & CEO of Maple
With the surge in virtual healthcare services, private providers like Maple are soaring. ER physician Dr. Brett Belchetz is co-founder & CEO of the company, which offers app-based medical services—most delivered by secure text messaging and available 24/7. Since the pandemic began, more than a million new patients have been served by the company. Maple has more than 1,500 physicians on its roster who are paid fee-for-service. While patient-paid virtual services are controversial and fall into a grey zone, Dr. Belchetz has indisputably brought virtual care to a new level of usage. He has created partnerships with benefits providers, and brought Shoppers Drug Mart onboard with a $75-million investment. —LL

9: Dr. Danyaal Raza

9-dr-danyaal-razaChair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare
Dr. Danyaal Raza is both an outspoken fan and a critic of Canadian public health. Even before he became chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, he was an advocate for filling the holes in Canada’s healthcare system. The family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Toronto focuses his advocacy work on single-payer healthcare, the intersection of public-private healthcare and the social determinants of health. He is a regular op-ed writer and has appeared in influential print media, including the Toronto Star, the Globe & Mail and Maclean’s, and regularly provides local and national TV and radio commentary. In the past year, he has also turned his attention to advocating for keeping profit out of our troubled long-term care facilities. —LL

10: Dr. David Juurlink

10-dr-david-juurlinkPharmacologist and internist
Dr. Juurlink is a go-to head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto and staff internist. The professor of medicine, pediatrics and health policy at the University of Toronto is also a medical toxicologist at the Ontario Poison Centre at the Hospital for Sick Children and a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. Dr. Juurlink maintains an active research program in the field of drug safety. His areas of particular interest include adverse drug events, the consequences of drug-drug interactions in clinical practice, and the epidemiology of suicide and deliberate self-poisoning.

He has been a critic of the regular prescribing of opioids and last year quickly and publicly pointed to the potential harms of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, antimalarial drugs promoted by Donald Trump for the treatment of COVID-19. —LL

11: Dr. Ryan Meili

11-dr-ryan-meiliLeader of the Saskatchewan NDP
Dr. Ryan Meili’s philosophy has long been that keeping people healthy is a better investment than trying to heal them later, a view that he expressed while on the campaign trail during last year’s lead-up to the Saskatchewan election. Though the Leader of the Opposition failed to gain enough ground over the Saskatchewan Party by October’s vote, Dr. Meili has continued to advocate on behalf of healthcare and Canada’s disadvantaged and vulnerable populations.

To that end, Dr. Meili, an FP and MLA for Saskatoon Meewasin, has founded a number of healthcare-related initiatives such as the Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health (SWITCH), the University of Saskatchewan’s Making the Links College of Medicine program, and Upstream, a national project of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that draws attention to the social determinants of health. —LL

12 & 13: Drs. Tara Kiran and Irfan Dhalla

drs-tara-kiran-and-irfan-dhallaDrs. Tara Kiran and Irfan Dhalla have each distinguished themselves with an abundance of wide-ranging contributions to healthcare across research, policy-making and clinical care. The married couple first met in medical school and had their first real conversation while travelling to Saskatoon for a meeting of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students.

A renowned primary-care researcher, Dr. Kiran has a passion for improving the system she works in. She practises family medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and is the Fidani chair in improvement and innovation and vice-chair of quality and innovation at the department of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto. Much of her research has focused on evaluating the impact of Ontario’s primary care reforms on quality of care. She believes patients should be more involved in shaping the way the healthcare system works and has partnered with patients to inform her research, design changes to care delivery, and set improvement priorities. She says one of the most gratifying aspects of her work has been mentoring others—many of whom are now in leadership roles trying to make the health system better.

Dr. Dhalla is a general internist and vice-president at Unity Health Toronto, which includes St. Michael’s, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and Providence Health Care. For the last few months, he has co-chaired the federal COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has championed a more effective pandemic response, writing articles in journals, newspapers, advising governments, and contributing to the conversation on Twitter. Dr. Dhalla is also an associate professor at U of T and a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

While they don’t collaborate on any particular projects (besides raising three children together), Dr. Dhalla says that he and Dr. Kiran have an “ongoing philosophical collaboration” that includes a passion for healthcare quality improvement and healthcare inclusivity, that informs, underpins and supports the work they each do. —LL

14: Dr. Jennifer Kwan

Dr. Jennifer Kwan

Family physician, heavy hitter on Twitter
When she’s not working at her family physician practice in Burlington, Ont., Dr. Kwan is often creating detailed, colourful graphs and charts on Ontario’s COVID-19 statistics, and posting them for her hefty Twitter following of 45,000. By posting these stats—every day—and putting information in context, Dr. Kwan has helped physicians and the public understand the virus’s impact in the province. She is also one of the advocates behind Masks4Canada, a group of physicians, media and others, whose mission is to inform and educate governments and the public on the critical role of masks to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Dr. Kwan also advocates for PPE for frontline workers in hospitals, as well as outpatient clinics, and created a centralized list of Ontario hospitals accepting donations. As one of the directors of the Halton Region Chinese Canadian Association, she has assisted in the donation of over 5,000 masks. —LL

15: Dr. Alika Lafontaine

Dr. Alika Lafontaine

Indigenous health advocate, anesthesiologist
Dr. Alika Lafontaine is an expert on Indigenous health systems and health policy, institutional bias, racism and reflective practice. A candidate this year for CMA president-elect, Dr. Lafontaine uses his voice quietly but persistently to create spaces where Indigenous communities can work with physicians, politicians and policy-makers to improve Indigenous healthcare. Dr. Lafontaine is an anesthesiologist at Queen Elizabeth II Regional Hospital in Grande Prairie, Alta. Dr. Lafontaine lectures across the country, sharing his own experiences as a Cree-Ojibwe-Polynesian and telling stories from his practice on how bias, discrimination and racism impact patient care—and why addressing these issues is at the core of improving the health of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Peoples. —LL

16: Dr. Isaac Bogoch

Dr. Isaac Bogoch

Epidemiologist, public health consultant, general internist
When COVID-19 first arrived in this country, Canadians were anxiously glued to their TV screens in an effort to understand what this frightening new virus meant for them. There, looking back at them, they found Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a voice of clear information, calm and reason. Since then, the infectious diseases specialist and general internist at the Toronto General Hospital has continued almost daily TV appearances. He tirelessly offers the public sound data and answers viewer questions on everything from masks and bubbles to testing and transmission, vaccines and variants. Dr. Bogoch also actively shares pandemic perspectives in print media and via social media, with 72,000 Twitter followers. —LL

17: Dr. Samantha Hill

Dr. Samantha Hill

President of the Ontario Medical Association
Leading the largest physician association in the largest province in the country has always been a distinguished role. But in the last five years, the occupant of that role has spent much of their time fending off unwelcome legislation and pay cuts—that is, maintaining the status quo. But after years of work, Dr. Samantha Hill and the current OMA leadership have been able to implement the most significant governance changes in the association’s 138-year history, intended to free up the decision-making apparatus to have greater impact on the health of Ontarians. Dr. Hill will be instrumental in shaping that process. —TB

18: Dr. Brendan Carr

Dr. Brendan Carr

CEO of Nova Scotia Health Authority
Dr. Brendan Carr became president and CEO of the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) at a time when the organization was responding to criticism of its governance and operational oversight.

After the province’s nine district health authorities merged in 2015, a 2017 report by a group of Nova Scotia medical professionals said the organization wasn’t agile enough to respond to local needs and was subject to political interference. Dr. Carr started just at the end of 2019.

An ER and family doctor, Dr. Carr had spent most of his medical career in Nova Scotia before leaving for a post as president and CEO of the Vancouver Island Health Authority. Recruited back to Nova Scotia, Dr. Carr is tasked with helping improve the organization and overseeing implementation of a province-wide EMR system. —CL

19: Dr. Kamran Khan

Dr. Kamran Khan

CEO and founder of BlueDot, infectious disease thinker
Working on the frontlines during the 2003 SARS epidemic inspired Dr. Kamran Khan to develop BlueDot, a global early warning system for infectious diseases. An infectious disease physician at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Dr. Khan saw the potential for artificial intelligence to make it possible to intervene quickly to change the course of an outbreak. The team at BlueDot predicted the worldwide spread of influenza and tracked the spread of Ebola and the Zika virus.

On Dec. 31, 2019, BlueDot notified its customers about a mysterious, pneumonia-like illness in Wuhan, China—nine days before the World Health Organization did. The BlueDot platform combines natural language processing and machine learning to comb the Internet for news related to infectious diseases, often well before it is officially reported. The Canadian government is now using BlueDot’s platform to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and analyze anonymous data from mobile devices to evaluate the impacts of public health measures. —AC

20: Dr. Sarita Verma

Dr. Sarita Verma

Dean of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine
Delivering high-quality medical care in the rural parts of this country is one of the great challenges. At the centre of the interminable effort to this are institutions like NOSM. Of all the doctors who’ve chosen to practise in Ontario’s north over the last 15 years, the lion’s share have come through NOSM. Dr. Verma is the recently appointed dean of the medical school and, as one of the profession’s most recognized champions of diversity, she brings valuable new perspectives to the question of how to meet the needs of these unique patient populations. —TB

21: Dr. Chris Simpson

Dr. Chris Simpson

Executive vice-president, medical, at Ontario Health
With Health Quality Ontario and Cancer Care Ontario all now rolled into the new “super agency” Ontario Health, Kingston, Ont.’s Dr. Chris Simpson is stepping into a big role: executive vice-president, medical, for Ontario Health. He’ll be the only doctor on the senior leadership team. As his hiring blurb explains, “he will help define, develop and evaluate programs and models of care consistent with Ontario Health’s mandate and priorities.” Dr. Simpson, who was previously a CMA president, is currently the vice-dean (clinical) at the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s University. —CL

22: Dr. Andreas Laupacis

Dr. Andreas Laupacis

Editor-in-chief of the CMAJ
Progressive doctors cheered when Dr. Andreas Laupacis became editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal in the fall of 2019. That probably had a lot to do with the reputation that the website Healthy Debate had—of which Dr. Laupacis was founder. A year ago, Dr. Laupacis had the CMAJ drop its paywall. Readership has increased threefold since 2019/20. While this can be attributed to easier access to CMAJ articles that were previously behind the gate, there has also been an increase in content that was always public. The CMAJ had a 70% increase in submissions over this past year and managed to deal with those with the same amount of staff as they had before—with a slight decrease in turnaround time for manuscripts. Dr. Laupacis has a background in clinical epidemiology and health services research and was a general internist until he stopped practising when he got the CMAJ gig. —CL

23: Dr. Sacha Bhatia

Dr. Sacha Bhatia

Virtual care champion
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive shift toward virtual care, Dr. Sacha Bhatia has advocated for digital healthcare delivery as a way to increase access to care, save costs and improve the patient experience. Director of the Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care at Women’s College, Dr. Bhatia is also a cardiologist at Women’s College Hospital and University Health Network. Recently he co-authored a C.D. Howe Institute report, Canada’s Virtual Care Revolution: A Framework for Succession, which argues that a move toward an almost equal ratio of physical to virtual interactions would reduce infection risk, decrease healthcare costs, increase patient convenience and create health system capacity. —AC

24: Dr. David Naylor

Dr. David Naylor

Co-chair of COVID-19 Immunity Task Force
Dr. David Naylor headed the federal inquiry into Canada’s response to SARS in 2003. The resulting report led to the formation of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the appointment of Canada’s first chief public health officer. In April 2020, the government of Canada called on Dr. Naylor again, this time to co-chair its COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. Dr. Naylor’s name came up many times as the Medical Post worked on this list. Often referred to as a visionary, he is recognized for vast contributions to health research, education, administration and policy. Dr. Naylor is a professor of medicine and president emeritus at the University of Toronto, where he served as president and dean of medicine. —AC

25: Dr. Suzanne Strasberg

Dr. Suzanne Strasberg

Chair of the CMA Board of Directors
It was while she was chair for MD Financial Holdings from 2014 to 2018 that Dr. Suzanne Strasberg’s leadership skills at the Canadian Medical Association really stood out. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that when B.C.’s Dr. Brian Brodie ended his term after six years as chair of the CMA board that Dr. Strasberg would be tapped to take over.

Those who know her say she’s a “doctors’ doctor” and a straight shooter. Dr. Strasberg works in Toronto as a member of the Jane Finch Family Health Team and previously had a number of positions with the OMA, including board chair and president. Dr. Strasberg took over the board a year and a half ago and is very committed to modernizing CMA’s board governance, including ensuring the board composition reflects the diversity of the association’s membership and the physician community. —CL

26: Dr. Lisa Calder

Dr. Lisa Calder

CEO of the Canadian Medical Protective Association
It’s an open secret that most physician organizations in this country have a conflicted relationship with their memberships. Physician issues are, after all, complicated, high-stakes and largely polarizing. Malpractice issues are no different, yet the CMPA boasts an unusually high approval rating among its membership. That lends unique influence to the voice at the head of the organization.

Dr. Calder is an emergency physician, researcher and teacher who became the first female head of the CMPA in the organization’s history. She took over in Aug. 2020 and, though she is relatively new to the role, her tenure could prove to be enormously consequential for the association. —TB

27: Dr. Mamta Gautam

Dr. Mamta Gautam

Physician wellness advocate
More attention is finally being paid to high rates of stress, burnout and depression among physicians—an issue that the COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified. And Dr. Mamta Gautam, an influential force as an advocate for physician health and wellness, has answered the call. A psychiatrist who has treated only physicians for 30 years, Dr. Gautam set up a free virtual support network for Canadian doctors to share their experiences of working during the pandemic. Her influence also reaches beyond Canada. Dr. Gautam has conducted webinars for physicians at the United Nations and physician leaders through the American Association of Physician Leaders. —AC

28: Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa

Dr. Chika Oriuwa

Viral valedictorian and CMAJ board member
A psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto, and now CMAJ advisory board member, Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa was valedictorian of the school’s faculty of medicine 2020 graduating class, becoming the first black woman recognized as sole valedictorian. In her online valedictory address, Dr. Oriuwa talks about the fear she felt over becoming an ambassador for the Black Student Application Program, which was developed in response to the low number of black students admitted to the school. The only black student in a class of 259, Dr. Oriuwa realized it was important to share her story, including experiences of isolation and encountering discrimination.

“I did not want my story to be written by others,” she said. “I did not want to be inaccurately defined on my own journey and knew that I had to reclaim my narrative.” Dr. Oriuwa’s speech has more than 30,000 views on YouTube and garnered much media attention. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even tweeted his congratulations, including, “This is only the beginning of an incredible journey, I’m sure.” We are inclined to agree, Mr. Trudeau. —AC

29: Dr. Susan Shaw

Dr. Susan Shaw

CMO of Saskatchewan Health Authority
When the Medical Post named 20 Doctors to Watch back in 2015, Dr. Susan Shaw was on that list. It looks like we knew what we were talking about. A critical care physician and anesthesiologist, Dr. Shaw is the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s chief medical officer. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Shaw continues to take ICU shifts and uses her experiences to inform Saskatchewan residents about topics such as the importance of wearing masks and the toll the virus is taking on the healthcare system.

Dr. Shaw also chairs the Saskatchewan Health Quality Council and is recognized as a leader in patient and family-centred care and continuous improvement in Canada. —AC

30: Dr. James Makokis

Dr. James Makokis

Two-spirit and Indigenous role model
In a year of increased calls for reconciliation and attention to the barriers faced by people based on their race, sexual orientation or gender identity, Dr. James Makokis is recognized as a role model. A two-spirit doctor in Kehewin Cree Nation with a subspecialty practice in transgender health in south Edmonton, Dr. Makokis consults with organizations on mental health, diversity and culturally sensitive medicine. People from around the world seek his care in the areas of gender transitioning and transgender health. Chair of a National Expert Physician Panel on Indigenous Health, Dr. Makokis is also running to become president-elect for the Canadian Medical Association.

In 2019, Dr. Makokis and his husband, Anthony Johnson, became the first Indigenous, two-spirit couple to win The Amazing Race Canada. —AC

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