AGM Speech transcript

Thank you Bill for that kind introduction.

All of us in this room know and appreciate the many tours around the province, the many meetings, the many media interviews, and the many hours you have worked to ensure members’ voices were heard. Doctors were well represented.

Not only did you work on our behalf by sacrificing time with your family, time with your patients…and probably sleep, but you also did it with humour, gusto, flair and a true desire to improve patient care and the physician experience.

From the membership, thank you Bill!

I’d like to introduce you to some very important people in my life – people whose support I very much appreciate and without their support, I wouldn’t be standing here right now. My wife Aase, a registered nurse from Denmark …who I met by chance on a diving beach in Thailand 16 years ago. Aase, have always been there for me and I’m indebted to your overwhelming and unconditional support. My two exceptional daughters Emilie and Laura.

And from my office – Helen Sr., Helen Jr., Emee and her husband Khaleed. My associate Dr. Ian Connell is away having a brief respite preparing himself the trials and tribulations of practicing with me at part-time. My father and his wife – Noel and Jane Webb were unable to attend and are at home in Surrey, England. As well, my mother Pam Webb is also unable to be here today. But I know she’s here in spirit from her home in London. Also, Dr. Rob Halpenny, CEO of Interior Health who I met on my first day at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Nancy Watson, secretary of the College of Physicians and Surgeons who registered me and found my first practice in Vancouver.

Also I am pleased to welcome the Vice President of the Resident Doctors of BC, Dr. Vishal Varshney And Nitai Gelber representing his first year medical student class at UBC Let’s please welcome them.

Colleagues, invited guests, family, and friends. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be your incoming President. I am truly humbled by this honour.

Many of you have seen me speak my mind in board meetings…You’ve seen me work for change in the governance of our association. I have at times been in strong opposition to the views of the Board. I’ll not apologize for that.

But I will say this. I believe in our association. Our association has so much to offer our members. I have seen the Board in the last number of years become leaders in championing change to bring about more accountability and transparency to our organization. Accountability and transparency are imperative for any organization to be successful, representative, and egalitarian.

I applaud you for this. And I will be a strong representative for you, as we move forward to continue some of the progressive work that you have started.

This work has included:

Term limits for board and committees. This means opportunities for other voices and different ideas.

The development of a conflict of interest policy. Helps with situations where members’ personal interests are – or can appear to be – in conflict with the Doctors of BC interest.

E-voting. This makes voting so much easier, efficient, and precise. We just had the highest election turnout in more than a decade – and as a result of e-voting we are able to have the timely run-off vote now underway!!

Board Chair. A call did go out to the full membership for this position. The response has been truly remarkable. Immediately after lunch today your new Board will choose from among 3 outstanding candidates – 1 internal and 2 external for this position. I am delighted that we have generated such interest and achieved such depth of engagement across our entire membership.

We have now set the stage and I’m looking forward to the Governance Committee’s Fall “green paper”- we are now well on the way to our membership’s desire for a more broadly supported smaller Board.

These are important steps for our association but like so many actions and ideas, they would not see the light of day if not for a very dedicated group of professionals – our association staff.
I have learned through personal experience just how much they do for us – the dedication, the long hours, the weekends, the commitment and the integrity. We’re a successful association because of the day-in-day-out efforts of our staff. Thank you for all you do.

Let’s acknowledge them.

During my term as your president there are two key concepts… values…tenets… that I will keep foremost in my mind and in my actions, and I hope all of you will too.

The first is “Collaboration.” The second is “Opportunity.” Let’s talk about Collaboration first. I want to assure you, we are working together…We are working collaboratively…to reach a consensus. In truth… in the PAST I may have been more direct than I would have liked. (Like many of you) I had become frustrated. I felt more needed to be done. I believed our association could do more and make a bigger difference. I felt the only way forward was to barrel ahead. My resolve to make a positive change has not altered, but my perspective on how to get there has.

We are now in the PRESENT. I have become very aware of the power of collaboration – collaboration with the Board and Committee Chairs, collaboration with our members… collaboration with government and health authorities, and most important, collaboration with the public. And collaboration is also the key to seizing the Opportunities we have before us.

Opportunity – is the second value I wish to bring to the forefront. We must take advantage of the opportunities that we have worked so hard to get. WE must act. We have a strong Physician Master Agreement that provides us with five years of stability. It provides additional funding for income disparity among specialists across Canada and within BC. It addresses workload challenges for all physicians. We all know doctors on the front lines of health care are in the ideal position to know what works best for patients. WE know how best to deliver health services to patients. We have been smart. We have positioned ourselves to do so much more for the profession, for our patients, and for the people of BC.

I am a realist. My time as president is but one year. I will contribute during my presidency by collaborating on current and future initiatives. Under the umbrella of collaboration and opportunity, there are several priorities I intend to focus on this year. I feel strongly about three different areas in which I will engage the membership, government, other stakeholders, and our board. These are vital to our association and in support of our strategic plan.

The first is motivating, invigorating, and energizing our younger members to take leadership in the health profession, and becoming involved with the Association. We are engaging younger members in committees and the board. They are stepping up. It’s very positive.

The second is Fairness – creating an even playing field in our work together, and for our patients.

And the third is how we use computers and technology – especially as they relate to realizing a universally accessible patient record.

Young Doctors

One of my key priorities in the coming year is to recognize and empower our medical students and residents. Our younger Doctors of Tomorrow are passionate, brilliant, and energetic. We are tapping into this generation, bringing them on board, teaching them to be leaders, and letting them flourish with their new tools and marvelous ideas!

Doctors of BC is engaging more and more with our young residents. We organize:
Resident graduation dinners to celebrate this major milestone in a young doctor’s life,

You know Bill Cavers claims these dinners have put on 10 lbs. but I’m way ahead on this – Adding weight requires some wardrobe adjustments so I am preparing for the dinners and today for the first time I have put on a pair of pink spotted blue suspenders! And I have a red pair for you too Bill.

We have incorporated 6 non-nboard members including 5 young doctors into our delegation to the Canadian Medical Association General Council meeting in August. We arrange speed dating for 1st and 2nd medical students (not that they need help in dating) The students spend 20 minutes or so talking to a dozen different doctors in different specialties… And student advocacy training that teaches them to be advocates and to stand up for themselves. Plus we support the annual Run for Rural Medicine, 1st year student orientation at UBC, the scholarship program, and much more.

But there’s still lots more we can do. All young doctors just starting out could benefit from being inspired, having a mentor, someone to look up to. I certainly did! All of us in this room have our own story of how we got here – why we chose medicine!

In my case growing up in South Africa, I was inspired by a number of doctors including my family’s own family doctor who made house calls, and went beyond the call of duty. This man looked after 4 generations of Webbs as if we were his own. He had a deep impact on me in terms of his compassion, dedication, and caring.

But the person who had the most impact was Dr. Francis Aimes who took on the South African Government, the medical establishment, academia, to task over the death of anti-apartheid activist Stephen Bantu Biko, and cover up by the authorities. She stood her ground on principle of medical truth and risked everything, and I mean everything. I knew her well. She took on the medical system and won. Her action was a catalyst- for changing the entire SA health system.

And my late brother, older than me, was the one who clinched the deal of my going into medicine. Not following my parents into Law, and instead joining him in medicine was one of the best decisions of my life. And those of you in this room – all of you – have the ability to provide the kind of leadership, mentorship and learning that shapes our future doctors.


The second area I want to focus on is Fairness – and how we can go about creating an even playing field.

As a collaborative leader I will engage our diverse membership. I will inspire them to work toward common goals, to vote in elections or referenda, to apply for and bring fresh ideas to our valuable committees, and to join our Board.

With more access, members are being engaged and involved with the Doctors of BC.
Our rates of turnout for elections, referenda, and committee chair and Board vacancies are improving. Our members young and old are becoming more engaged. Yes, we need to do more but as we have seen in the latest election the tide is turning – we have all just felt the surge.

We are, of course, venturing further afield with the opportunity to fulfill a unique vision, a collaborative vision – a vision never before tried in Canada. The PMA and the Association’s strategic plan are calling for a new vision – a vision specifically to help facilities based doctors – in which every partner including every CEO of every Health Authority, work together to benefit the health care system, patients and doctors.

We’ve been working hard behind the scenes creating a stronger regional presence. We are not just advocating for doctors, our Board has been charged to assist and train doctors to advocate for themselves. This way forward is now the greatest new investment by our Association.

It is now our specialist colleagues’ time. It is their time to be more engaged with the Association, in their communities, and with each other. They have our solid support and encouragement. Another aspect of fairness…involves the patient. Sometimes things happen to a patient, and therefore to their families, that are simply not fair.

Delays and access to care are plain and simply – unfair. The way forward is to be found through more collaboration. All this falls under our Strategic Plan. It calls for and develops highly engaged members – doctors who can work with partners in the healthcare system to exert a meaningful influence. We all need to step up to the plate. Let’s all accept the past, the successes and the mistakes, and move forward collaboratively. Together we can mold a profession of influence.

Universally accessible patient record

The final area I am focused on is physician leadership in innovation and information technology. I have a personal passion for technology, not because I have an aptitude. My wife,staff and children can attest to that. I truly recognize how important this is.

Since 2010 I have been and continue to be a member of the Vancouver Division of Family Practice’s IT committee. I applaud their vision to create care plans based on a full portrait of a patient’s medical journey, over their entire lifetime — or what’s become known as “one patient, one record.” No one disputes the benefits: better quality and convenience of patient care, increased patient participation, accuracy of diagnoses and outcomes, care coordination as well as efficiencies and cost savings.

But interoperability remains the monster to overcome. Collecting the data is one thing – freeing all the data from among many different sources and healthcare systems is quite another. It remains a most pressing challenge. We need to direct our energies to overcoming this bottleneck. Driving technology forward is an area where doctors can demonstrate leadership and be partners in progress.

We need to be leaders, to have an effective voice with government, Health Authorities, private ventures and all our other partners. We need to be a profession of influence in helping set both the priorities and the processes for the adoption of a universally accessible IT system. I strongly advocate for the development of a medical record system that can be accessed by the clinicians who need it and by the patients to better co-manage their conditions.

This of course will not only improve patient care, but also make it easier to provide quality care. We all want this.


In closing, I just want to say that my role as president is to be your representative, a grassroots physician who has been given a great privilege. We are starting down a new road. It is a road of opportunity. Collaboration is required to proceed and be successful. Resolve and standing our ground will also be required. As will dedication, support, insights, hard work and a little luck. The journey down this road continues long after my term as president.

My parents, both lawyers, may not have wanted me to go into medicine but they did have some sage advice – “What you start, you finish!”

Thank you for entrusting me with the office of president of Doctors of BC.

And thank you for your support in the year ahead.

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