I’ve sat on the AFHTO Board for six years and learned a great deal from many talented colleagues across our province who have volunteered their time to advocate for high quality, inter-professional, team-based primary care for all Ontarians. I’ve enjoyed our committee meetings and in-depth discussions on how to improve our health care system. I also continue to be amazed by the motivation and enthusiasm of Kavita and her skeleton staff to support us no matter what barriers stand in their way.
Last week, my term as President began at the annual AFHTO conference. I must admit that it was bitter sweet. Usually the incoming President addresses conference attendees in person and then has a couple of days to schmooze and meet new members. It’s a nice escape from the hustle bustle of our practices, and one I look forward to every Fall. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, prevented that from happening this year.
The live event was replaced with yet another virtual encounter, something we have all gotten very used to in a short amount of time. In particular, I felt for my predecessor, Dr. Tom Richard. Given all of the hard work he’s put in as President this past year, a thank you wave via Zoom just didn’t seem like the proper send off.
Fortunately, the conference was immediately followed by the Thanksgiving Long Weekend; a time for self-reflection and gratitude for what we should all be thankful for in our lives. Our health. Fulfilling careers. Relationships with friends and family. My adorable puppy dog, Preston. I realized the privilege I was given during the conference to interview our Minister of Health, the Honourable Christine Elliott (which my wife and kids thought was pretty cool, by the way).
Reconnecting with my Markham Stouffville Hospital colleague, Dr. Jane Philpott, was also a highlight for me. We have all followed her career as a physician, politician, and educator with awe, and her passion for improvement and change is something we should all continue to strive for. Finally, seeing the effort put forth by all of you to share stories and advice during the concurrent sessions reminded me of the strong community of practice we continue to build together.
So to kick off my term, I have decided to set three goals for myself. The first is stakeholder engagement. I’m a believer in building and maintaining relationships, and look forward to collaborating with our primary care partners to advocate on your behalf and that of the patients we serve. Secondly, I’m going to promote the incredible work that we all do each and every day whenever I get the opportunity (and I encourage you all to do the same). Primary care often takes a back seat to other squeaky wheels in the health care space - probably because we are so busy servicing our communities! And finally, I’m a strong believer in feedback. AFHTO wants to hear from you, early and often. The Board needs to be aware of both your innovative ideas and pain points. I won’t promise to have a solution for everything, but we will continue to listen attentively. So don’t be a stranger!
These are challenging times no doubt. There is so much uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last and when our lives will return to some degree of normalcy. Lucky for us, uncertainty is one of the hallmarks of primary care practice. We aren’t afraid to acknowledge it or suggest solutions to tackle it.
So let’s continue to lean on each other as we navigate through uncharted waters, as I suspect we are all feeling a sense of burnout from time to time. Just because we need to maintain a physical distance between each other doesn’t prevent us from strengthening our social relationships.
I’m looking forward to this journey. Thank you for the opportunity.
Dr. Allan Grill
President & Chair