On Nov. 24, 2016, the OCFP welcomed Dr. Glenn Brown as its 61st President. The following are highlights of the address Dr. Brown delivered to members at the 2016 Installation and Awards Ceremony.
I am privileged and honoured to become the sixty-first President of the Ontario College of Family Physicians.
For those of you who don't know me, allow me to provide some background. I attended medical school at McMaster University, which affirmed my view that generalism was important and it was in family medicine that I could contribute the most. I completed residency at Queen's University where I have maintained my association with Queen's, serving as the Postgraduate Director for Family Medicine and for the past ten years as Chair of the Department of Family Medicine.
For almost 25 years, I worked as a family physician in Napanee, a small town located about 40 minutes from Kingston. I ran an office, managed my inpatients, delivered babies, oversaw the emergency department, worked as a GP anesthetist, and served as the Chief of Staff. When I think of that period, I particularly recall the medical challenges, the commitment of the medical community, and the camaraderie between the health-care professionals.
One story that makes me smile is from a night I was called in as the anesthetist. A patient of one of the other family doctors was in labour and having some difficulty, so I was asked to do an epidural. This was fine except that my wife was away so I had to pack up our two little kids and head into the hospital. They could sleep on the couch in the doctor's lounge. When I arrived, there was no vacancy on the couch. A colleague had brought in his two kids and they were already sleeping on the couch. No worries, we just squeezed them in.
In those days when I did an epidural, I stayed in the hospital to monitor the patient. And so as this night went on, another woman came in, in labour. Her family doctor was called to do the delivery. That colleague also brought in his two kids. Six kids definitely makes a party so there was no more sleeping on the couch.
The night nursing supervisor was quite strict about not allowing us doctors to break into the ice cream and cookies that were intended for patients. But she had a heart for little kids so they had lots of cookies and ice cream while their fathers attended to their duties.
I share this story because it illustrates a key part of what practice means to me. It means helping out your colleagues and providing medical services in the middle of the night. It means negotiating a relationship with a strict, experienced, and highly respected nursing supervisor. It means having fun with kids. It involves our families and we recognize the burdens that practice can place on them.
I would like to thank my wife Brenda for her support throughout my medical career. There are fun memories, but also memories of times when service became a burden. All of our families, deserve more recognition for the strength and support they have provided.
The role of the OCFP
I joined the OCFP’s Board of Directors three years ago and it has become a new professional home.
The OCFP has a strong track record of advocacy and education. Its success demonstrates what happens when committed, passionate family physicians dedicate themselves to working for a common cause. The College has a history of playing a leadership role in primary care reform. Nearly two decades ago, our colleagues advocated for a system that supported comprehensive care, responded to changing societal and patient needs, and improved day-to-day working conditions of family physicians. As a result, family medicine as a discipline was strengthened.
Continuing education for family physicians is another important function of the OCFP. The popular Practicing Wisely program is a wonderful example of the programs provided by our college. It strengthens our role as experts but also takes a broader look at how we make clinical decisions in an evidence based manner. We all share responsibility for the sustainability of our system and Practicing Wisely helps provide some practical tools to achieve this.
As you are aware, primary care is in the midst of tremendous change. The patients we see in our practice are older, resulting in more complex care needs. There are gaps and duplications and the system is not organized to effectively serve our patients and our communities – especially indigenous populations, people living in poverty, and people who are marginalized. There are pervasive system-access challenges and we struggle to meet the legitimate needs of our patients.
Comprehensive patient care is better patient care. However, not all of us have access to a team and we need to ensure that focused practice family physicians are able to continue to contribute to the mission of primary care, in a system that supports them.
Our practice environment has remained challenging in the past year. Our immediate focus as family doctors should be on maintaining the trust we have with our patients. We cannot allow the current political turmoil to distract us from delivering the highest level of patient care possible. Patient care and their well-being remains our responsibility.
It will only be through productive, respectful partnerships and collaborations with our colleagues, our patients, the LHINs, and the Ministry that we can move forward and achieve what is best for patients and physicians. I expect that we will need to be steadfast when we must be, but flexible when we need to be if we are to overcome today's challenges and move forward.
We have an opportunity to drive the vision of what primary care should look like – based on the needs of our patients, grounded in the caring and collective wisdom of family physicians, and supported by appropriate models and funding.
This opportunity is about advocating for a bold yet tempered vision for the future of primary care. A primary care system in which everyone can access care co-ordination and programs that are delivered by an inter-professional team. A primary care system that is patient-centred with family doctors at their side.
I applaud the Presidents and Board directors before me whose leadership positively impacted primary care reform in Ontario. I intend to carry the same conviction forward.
As your new President, I commit to support the diversity of our membership, advocate for the importance of family physician leadership and engagement, and collaborate with other primary care organizations to advance the vision of the Patient’s Medical Home.
I look forward to the opportunity to reach out to the membership. I will work with you, embracing the new opportunities before us to lead and deliver the changes we need in family medicine and in primary care. We owe it to our patients, and, just as equally, we owe it to ourselves.
Thanks so much for this opportunity.
Dr. Glenn Brown, MD, CCFP (EM), FCFP
President, Ontario College of Family Physicians