The CMA President Elect on why she leans in

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She’s a family physician with a passion for obstetrics who also loves assisting with cardiovascular surgery. She teaches in the UBC Department of Medicine’s undergraduate and postgraduate programs. A wife and mother of two, Dr. Kathleen Ross also has a strong sense of volunteerism and has been a vital part of many organizations from her children’s schools to Doctors of BC. The current president elect of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Ross was VPSA’s Dinner with Leaders March guest, speaking about her journey, her areas of focus, and how physicians can best engage with her and the CMA.

Dr. Ross credits her parents with instilling a strong commitment to service and a love of the outdoors. She grew up locally and completed her bachelors, masters, and medical degrees at UBC. She married during medical school, and she and her husband welcomed their son when she was an intern at Royal Columbian Hospital. A daughter followed a little over a year later. Dr. Ross began taking on leadership roles in the community and bonded with a group of women with whom she shares interests and a thirst for travel. Awakening young women and girls to their possibilities and empowering them is one of her greatest pleasures.

In 2015, she participated in a medical outreach program in Kausay Wasi, Coya, Peru. She was part of the Coquitlam Rotary/Desea Peru vocational training team from 2015 to 2019. The group teaches adult resuscitation, wound and fracture management, child resuscitation and choking, complex wound care, emergency evacuation and transportation, emergency childbirth and post-partum hemorrhage, trauma scene assessment, and management and triage of multiple victims to local health-care workers. In 2018, Dr. Ross was able to go to Nairobi to help with the Kenya vocational training team. She is currently a director of Rotary World Help and was also part of the Rotary Club of Coquitlam’s African Ruggedized Education System (ARES) program in 2022/23, which assists remote rural schools with minimal resources.

“Travelling in remote areas made me acutely aware of the need for health care in rural and remote places,” she commented. “Rotary World Help gathers medical supplies and equipment that would otherwise go to the landfill and sends these to places in need.”

Closer to home, Dr. Ross was the first chair of the Fraser Northwest Division of the Divisions of Family Practice. She served on the Shared Care Committee and the Collaborative Services Committee. She held various positions including the presidency with the Royal Columbian Medical Staff Association from 2015 to 2022. Dr. Ross has also chaired the Pathways Patient Referral Association since 2014.

“I’ve leaned in because I felt I needed to be the change,” she remarked. “These opportunities allowed me to work across silos and advocate for solutions. There was quite a bit of pressure to run for president of Doctors of BC. I initially declined, but eventually caved. It was the greatest experience of my leadership journey to date.”

Dr. Ross was the Doctors of BC president in 2019/2020; it was an unprecedented time during a worldwide pandemic. She travelled the province tirelessly to understand the gaps and the need for grassroots change.

“Perhaps my greatest passion is improving physician confidence in leadership,” said Dr. Ross. “I believe physicians are natural born leaders but imposter syndrome looms over everyone. We’re all unique and have all faced adversity that has influenced our journey.”

She cautions that self-doubt can hold us back when it is supported by external criticism and counsels others to be honest in their self-appraisals and to avoid the dark side. One of her key tenets is to know yourself and be authentic.

As she looks to her coming tenure as CMA president, Dr. Ross says she is excited about the association’s strategic plan and vision. She anticipates that health human resources will be one of her top priorities along with creating national licensure, and alleviating the administrative burdens physicians have. Physician wellness will remain a key concern and she also wants to see tangible changes in reconciliation. Achieving net zero health-care systems is also a crucial item on her agenda.

“I encourage you to work with your CMA contact; it’s never been more urgent. We’re in a moment of crisis; but it’s also a moment of hope. I like to remind everyone that every journey begins with a single step.”

Dinner with Leaders is an initiative of VPSA’s Community Building and Wellness Task Group. Upcoming VPSA events include an evening with VCH Regional Medical Director, Medical Staff Wellness, Dr. Ashok Krishnamoorthy and Renee Gagnon, a lawyer who works with the Canadian Medical Protection Association, on May 25. They will provide insights into the duties to disclose in cases of personal health issues. On May 29, VPSA will host an in-person event at VGH to recognize the contributions of our resident physician colleagues. Members are encouraged to nominate residents they have worked with who have provided outstanding service to Vancouver Acute and Vancouver Community. Watch for registration details to both these events in your weekly Checkup newsletter.

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