November 2018

OCFP President Dr. Jennifer Young's Installation Address

On Nov. 14, 2018, the OCFP welcomed Dr. Jennifer Young as its 62nd president. The following is the address Dr. Young delivered to members at the 2018 Installation and Awards Ceremony.

It is truly a privilege to be h Photo of 2018-20 OCFP  President Dr. Jennifer Youngere today. A humbling one, yes! But still a privilege.

After so many years as a doctor, it’s sometimes hard to think of myself as a president of anything. Especially since my kids have been calling this a “coronation”. Now, I wouldn’t go that far, but I do know that this position comes with a lot of responsibility.

Today, I wanted to talk about that responsibility, and what it means for the OCFP and for all of you. And, so you can understand how I want to approach my tenure as president, I wanted to talk about it by telling you my story.
I like people. I like science. I like a good challenge. That’s how I knew medicine – and more specifically family medicine – was for me. Most of all, though, I’m inspired by adventure.

My story started on Manitoulin Island, and it took me all over the world. It led to Ghana, where I met my husband Tjeerd, a Dutch small-scale irrigation engineer. It spanned locums, marriage and a first daughter. It took me to Mozambique and a second daughter. Then, 18 years ago, we made the decision to move back to Canada. Collingwood, to be exact, where I started a comprehensive family practice and we had daughter number three.

But the adventure didn’t stop there. In the course of those 18 years we took two years away. One was in Lesotho, where I worked in an AIDS clinic. The second was in Tjeerd’s home country, the Netherlands, where I became certified as a Dutch family physician. (No, there were no more daughters born in either of those places!)

I don’t want you to think that traveling is what excites me, though. There was plenty to inspire me in Collingwood as well. I work with a very forward looking medical community that, I think, is a model for a Patient Medical home and Neighbourhood.  What was on my mind in those early years of practice? Everything! My practice, the hospital, obstetrics, part-time Emergency shifts and the occasional leadership role. It meant a lot of thinking about Canadian medicine.

But it wasn’t until I was in the Netherlands in 2010 that I was able to compare the two systems, and I started to think about our own in a more reflective way.
Does Canada really have as good a system as we THINK we do, or are we thinking about the system we COULD have? I realized then that while we had always been comparing our system to our neighbour to the south, and according to the Commonwealth Survey, that meant we were comparing ourselves to the lowest performer among the OECD countries.

When we returned to Collingwood in 2011, that realization gave me the motivation for my next big step. There was an opening on the OCFP Board – a chance to make a difference – so I volunteered.

I have always felt at home with the OCFP.

I’m energized by the discussions at the Board table, which have been about issues that matters to me, to my colleagues and to my patients. I’m even more proud to say that the only reason I can stand here today as president is because of the supportive and respectful collegiality of my fellow Board members, and the example of the presidents who have been my role models. They were the ones who encouraged me to put my name forward.

I can point to specific memorable moments of course – like when Cathy Faulds gave me the book The Gifts of Imperfection, when Sarah Newbury gave me this notebook and the book Finding the Space to Lead – but more than that, the contributions of every Board member highlights how we all bring something to the table.

It’s taught me that success in leadership is not a solo effort.

It’s also shown me that our organization is ahead of the curve. It has already evolved to demonstrate mature governance with a skills-based board enacting policies and procedures that make sense. And, integrally, policies that protect the members and stakeholders, all of whom inform our strategic plan. In fact, I see other organizations evolving their governance in the same way that we already have.

Another point of pride for me is that the OCFP staff are true professionals. They provide relevant and concise support for our deliberations, they connect with our stakeholders, they connect with our members and keep the mission of the OCFP top of mind.

Now, those things are incredibly important for our future as well as right now, and it all comes back to the realization I had in the Netherlands. Those things are the foundation for the OCFP’s next challenge: turning our health care system from one that can stack up against the best of the OECD countries.

Family medicine plays a pivotal role in a high-functioning health-care system.

We are expert generalists. We know our patients. We specialize in the undifferentiated. We can diagnose minor acute illnesses. We can pick out that slightly suspicious element in a particular patient, which leads to discovery of a more sinister disease. We can manage a list of six problems in one appointment. We can work with our patients to come to treatment decisions that incorporate their values with the evidence as we know it. We can serve the needs of our communities through skills in emergency medicine, anesthesia, palliative care, leadership and dozens more.

We all know this, because we live it every day. It’s critical that our government recognizes it as well.

Our members have asked us to be more than “the education college,” and I couldn’t agree more. They want us to be advocates, to champion their work, to be at the table discussing issues that affect their patients and their practice. It’s important to them because they’re under strain from all sides, whether that means not having access to team-based care with connected EMRs, whether it means negotiating a primary care contract that makes sense, whether it means meeting the demands of more complex patients even though home care supports are insufficient, whether it means the opioid crisis and right to die’s a lot.

It’s our job to help alleviate those strains so our people--our doctors--can focus on working with their patients.

Thankfully, we’ve already made great strides as advocates.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but I’m confident that together we can get it done. I want you to be confident in me as a president. I am not afraid to speak up – some people who know me might wish I didn’t speak up quite so much, in fact! It’s time for me to speak up for the two worlds I’ve belonged to throughout my adventures: the OCFP and the clinical practitioners.

In a few moments, we will be honouring the people in this room with awards for their excellence. All of them are amazing examples of what family physicians do around the province every day. And one thing you’ll recognize in every single award is the focus on relationships. The bedrock of our professional lives is made of relationships. High touch, low tech relationships. It is such a privilege.

There is magic in that, sure, but there is also science. That continuity of relationship over time results in better health, and better outcomes. NO amount of progress or technology will replace that.

So when I think of my next adventure--one of the most inspiring of all of my adventures--I think of one that is based in relationships. Relationships with those I already know, and relationships with those I may not have met, but from whom I am eager to learn.

I am grateful for the opportunity to represent you. I will do my best in the coming two years, with the OCFP and the Board, to bring these truths to the fore.

Because the value of family medicine needs to be felt by others as deeply as we feel it every day of our professional lives.

Thank you.

Dr. Jennifer Young, MD, CCFP (EM)
President, Ontario College of Family Physicians
[email protected]
Twitter @OntarioCollege