November 29, 2018
In just a few days, it will be one year since we became a provincial health authority. In addition to being a milestone we all share, December 4th is special to me because it marks the one-year anniversary of my first day as your Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
I’ll never forget my first day as CMO. Typical of a December morning, it was dark and cold as I headed to the temporary Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) offices in a strip mall on 8th Street in Saskatoon. At that point, the CMO team was quite small – just me! As I settled myself into my new office, I realized I did not have a plan for what I should be doing on my first day, and when my phone rang for the first time, I felt quite a bit of panic. With considerable relief, I discovered it was a mentor calling to wish me the best while checking in on how I was feeling – which was excited and anxious, but mostly excited.
What excited me most on my first day of work was the commitment of our new provincial health authority to integrate physicians into SHA’s leadership structure. Health care systems across Canada and the world have shown that high-performing systems consistently embed physicians as leaders at all levels of the organization. The day we launched the SHA, we already had seven physicians, including me, in leadership positions: two physicians appointed to the
SHA Board of Directors and four physicians on the
Executive Leadership Team working in partnership with our Vice Presidents of Integrated Urban Health, Integrated Rural Health, Integrated Northern Health and Provincial Programs.
My primary task over this past year has been to continue building the medical leadership structure within the SHA. Today, I’m proud of our small but mighty team of dedicated physician leaders, including
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Fourie, Senior Medical Health Officer Dr. Julie Kryzanowski, our
Area Chiefs of Staff and Provincial Heads. I would be remiss not to mention Maily Lockhart and Lori Muench, two very kind and competent women who help keep things running smoothly in the Chief Medical Office.
Together, as a team, we are learning and exploring our new roles, while supporting one another in the journey to create a more integrated, patient-centred health care system. Our Area Chiefs of Staff, in particular, are building and revitalizing physician leadership teams across each of our six areas.
Over the past year, I’ve also been working to better understand the opportunities available to partner with the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine. Like many physicians, I strongly believe you cannot have clinical excellence without academic excellence, and vice versa. Within our new system, there is a lot of opportunity to work with the College of Medicine and
Dean Preston Smith (one of two physician SHA Board members) to align our strategic plans as much as possible for the betterment of the people of Saskatchewan who each of our organizations serve.
Another remarkable achievement this year has been the transition of the Physician Recruitment Agency of Saskatchewan into the SHA. The agency is now part of Practitioner Staff Affairs, and we held the first Practitioner Recruitment and Retention Advisory Panel in November. In the weeks and months ahead, the Practitioner Staff Affairs office will continue to redesign our processes and services to better meet the needs of our physicians and communities.
Looking back on 2018, I clocked a lot of kilometres, saw much of our beautiful province, and had the privilege and honour of meeting many incredible and inspiring people. I especially appreciated the time I spent at
Batoche in July, attending a cultural festival celebrating Métis culture and history, and the time I have shared with Elders and Knowledge Keepers, whether at Wanuskewin, All Nations Healing Hospital or in my daily work.
The most rewarding part of this past year has been the opportunity to maintain my clinical practice and my relationships with patients, families and colleagues, while taking on this new and challenging role. That is ultimately the strength of our medical leadership structure: physicians are both supported and expected to continue our medical practice while also having a seat at the leadership table, allowing us to collaborate every single day with our operational colleagues. With this new leadership structure in place, I am confident that together, as physicians and administrators, we can make a real difference in the lives of patients and their families.
That said there is still a lot of work ahead. Over the next few months, our Area Chiefs of Staff in Regina and Saskatoon will be completing the appointment of their Area Leads and Division Leads. In 2019, we will further establish our dyad leadership model, partnering physicians and administrative leaders beyond the Executive Leadership Team in a staged approach.
I must be honest. This past year has also been stressful and tiring at times. I’ve read more briefing notes and reports, and far less books, than I normally do. It is not unusual for me to wake up in the morning and find my brain has already started to write emails. I’ve never done this type of work before – come to think of it, no one in Saskatchewan has! So I suppose any moments of self-doubt are to be expected.
But I also find that I can quickly pick myself back up. It’s an exciting time for physicians in Saskatchewan, and I am honoured and humbled to be leading this change with you. As we enter our second year as a provincial health authority, I am optimistic that we will build a robust team of physician leaders across the province, both in our urban centres and in our rural and northern communities. We are on a great path, working with and on behalf of great people. The most enjoyable part of this past year has been getting to know many of you in person and through the emails you send in response to these CMO Messages. Your opinions, perspectives, personal stories and advice are always welcome and appreciated.
I would love to hear from you: what do you think is the greatest accomplishment of the SHA this year, and what are you looking forward to in 2019?
Dr. Susan Shaw
Chief Medical Officer