Working towards a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace for all our physicians

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“The first time I walked into a Medical Advisory Council meeting the first thing I noticed was that there was only one other female physician in the room,” said Dr. Heather Lindsay.

In October 2018, several women physician leaders met with Dr. Marcel Dvorak, Vancouver Acute Associate Medical Director, to raise the issue of the lack of women physician representation in medical leadership roles at Vancouver Acute. Dr. Dvorak asked the Vancouver Physician Staff Association Facility Engagement Initiative to investigate… little did he know that this would strike a chord with both the VPSA co-chair at the time, Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, and the Collaboration & Advocacy Committee chair, Dr. Lynn Straatman.

“Organizations that actively value diversity are more successful than those that do not, and evidence also suggests that strong woman representation at senior management levels is associated with better organizational performance, innovation and financial health,” said Dr. Straatman.

According to 2018 available data, while 42 per cent of Vancouver Acute’s physicians are women, women physicians occupy only 19 per cent of the formal medical leadership roles, a number that has been stable for the last three years. The numbers are essentially the same for Vancouver Coastal Health.

With the support of VPSA women physicians representing a broad range of departments, divisions, career stages, with formal and informal leadership roles, the VPSA team landed on an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) method to explore the medical leadership gender gap issue.

Instead of focusing on all that is wrong and ails, AI defines a positive future state: in this case, a future where meaningful leadership experiences for women physicians exist so that women and men physicians participate together and equally in strong leadership roles at VCH.

With the support of Ann Brown, Organizational Change Consultant & Appreciative Inquiry Coach, and the participation of 20 physicians, the first AI session was held on January 29, 2019. Through the process of discovery and dream, a possibility statement was developed that distilled down to three aims: “valuing women, valuing leadership;” “supporting careers” (for both men and women physicians); and “visible diversity and active inclusion.”

Four essential elements were identified as key drivers required for turning the possibility statement into reality:

  • culture and environment
  • succession planning and talent management
  • meaningful metrics
  • leadership skills

These four essential elements were further developed on April 17 in the last two phases of the AI process: design and deliver and with the participation of VCH and PHC leaders, People and Culture coaches, VCH Physician Engagement & Contract Strategies, UBC Faculty of Medicine, Specialist Services Committee representative and our VPSA physicians AI core team.

The result is Using All Our Talents, a report that provides an action plan intended to affect real and meaningful culture change at VCH. We encourage all physicians, particularly Department Heads to look at the Quick Read.

“While our inquiry was focused on women physicians in leadership, the resulting action plan is intended to support continuing discussion and actions to address the multiple facets of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Dr. Joy Masuhara.

The action plan recommends the creation of a new VCH Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and four working groups representing the four essential elements (see figure below).

“The establishment of the VCH Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee is an important first step to ensure the implementation and operationalization of the actions and recommendations made in the Using All Our Talents report,” said Michael Ducie, VCH Executive Director of Physician Engagement and Contract Strategies. The goal of the committee will be to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within medical leadership roles across VCH and oversee the four working groups.

The DEI committee and related working groups are now being developed and are currently recruiting men and women physicians in all their diversity to help lead this important work.

Interested in joining the DEI committee and/or the working groups? Click here for more information and fill out the application form. VPSA physician members will be provided sessional funding for time spent in meetings.

“It is heartening to see the report Using All Our Talents having such a positive impact at the VCH senior leadership level,” said VCH Board Chair Dr. Penny Ballem. “Clearly our health authority is committed to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace and physicians play a remarkably important role in this process. I encourage our members to participate on the committee and working groups to help make it happen.”

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