Dr. Bowmer is your new President — read his investiture speech

Royal College Staff
March 25, 2019 | Author: Royal College Staff

Those of you who know me know that I tell stories. It’s how I developed my teaching and it’s an approach I used during my administrative career. I’d like to share two of those stories tonight.

In late February 2019, M. Ian Bowmer, MDCM, FRCPC, FRCP, FCAHS, became the 45th President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Keep scrolling to read his investiture speech or link to Dr. Bowmer’s biography.

Speech by new Royal College President Dr. Bowmer (Council dinner, February 2019)

Thank you, I feel like I am embarking on a new adventure.

Je vous remercie infiniment pour cet immense honneur. Votre appui et votre confiance me vont droit au cœur.

By now, you have realized that I have an accent in both official languages. That’s because, as Newfoundlanders say, I’m not from here; I’m a “Come from Away.” I came to Canada, from England, over 60 years ago with my family to find a better life. My most vivid memory is arriving by ship and the trip up the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City to Montreal. It was a glorious July day. I spent the whole time on the deck looking out to land. Clusters of brightly coloured red, blue and silver roofed houses, centered around grand churches with towering silver, gold and copper steeples. Beautiful stripes of green and brown, forests and fields, stretching back from the shore — seigneuries dating back to the 17th century.

We were settlers, in the modern sense. I have since come to understand the significance of the complexities around that term. In that context, I too would like to honour the Algonquin people and recognize that we are holding our meetings on their traditional, unceded territory.

As I come back to Council after nearly 20 years absence, I am proud and relieved that we have begun to address the concerns of this land’s Indigenous Peoples. It has taken too long.

However, I do think we have started to listen and to include our Indigenous colleagues in every discussion. I promise that I will continue to listen, to expand the collaboration and to continue respectful involvement in all issues that face our [Royal] College.

Those of you who know me know that I tell stories. It’s how I developed my teaching and it’s an approach I used during my administrative career. I’d like to share two of those stories tonight.

First, my journey with the Royal College.

As a new faculty member at Memorial University, I was invited by Ms. Louise Papineau (who retired last year after over 50 years with the [Royal] College) to become a Royal College examiner in Internal Medicine. I was honoured by the invitation; but, also, my own examination experience had been fairly traumatic so deep down I thought this might be an opportunity to make the process more humane. I soon discovered I was perhaps just a little naïve. The more I thought I was helping to clarify, etc. (in a neutral way) the more the poor candidates thought I was trying to trick them. But what I also discovered was that my involvement was a wonderful learning experience and that it gave me an incredible network of colleagues.

So, I jumped at other opportunities the Royal College offered. Through each experience, I grew as a clinician, as a teacher and as an educator, learning more and more about medical education’s methodologies, philosophy and assessment. Not just assessment of the individual, but also the need for and the value of assessment of the system. I never questioned the value of my Royal College because my Royal College drew a young faculty physician deeper into medical education and became a collective mentor and teacher.

For me, it is no wonder that we can aspire to be the global leader in medical education.

My second story is not so happy.

Almost 10 years after my RC oral examination, I saw my first patient with AIDS. It was early 1984 (35 years ago and still raw in my mind). He was 28 and had come home to Newfoundland to tell his family he was gay, had AIDS and to die of this devastating, deforming, mysterious infectious disease. He landed in St. John’s, told his family and they brought him straight from the airport to the hospital. Sadly, they rarely saw him again. I can understand how difficult it was for the family, though of course their fear made it more so for the patient. I have many stories from that difficult time… stories of fear, stigma, rejection, but also of wonderful love and sacrifice. We all struggled with how to cope with this terrible disease. Aside from the tragedies of our patients and the challenges AIDS presented to families, I sometimes experienced that, as a profession, we were lacking humanity and, as a society, we too often condemned rather than supported. In Newfoundland and Labrador, over time, from a mix of patients, care providers, politicians and policy-makers, we created a great multidisciplinary, collaborative approach. National networks eventually evolved, but more from the drive of patients and care providers than health care leaders. Ironically, it was the CFPC [College of Family Physicians of Canada] that asked me to chair Health Canada’s first national working group to develop an HIV care and treatment module for adults and adolescents.

What was missing early on was a national body pulling together a network of expertise to provide guidance, mentoring and peer support. Where was my Royal College when we needed those links?

But new diseases are not the only change we have faced during our careers.

Physicians and surgeons in this room have all experienced similar dramatic mid-career changes in their practice. Laparoscopic and other low-invasive surgical procedures come to mind, in surgery.

These changes pale when one starts to look to the future of deep-learning computers, artificial intelligence, new bio-mechanical technologies, genomic manipulation and pharmacogenetic medicine.

Where will my Royal College be as these changes are rapidly introduced and accepted by patients, society, governments and industry?

I want us to be right there, up front, guiding their introduction, assessing their efficacy and working with colleagues and patients as they adjust to the new knowledge and technologies.
Richard [Reznick] has written an insightful blog about this and the role of his Council Committee. I think we are on the right track. [Link to Dr. Reznick’s post on AI on the Queen’s University website]

We have all the expertise within our membership through our specialty societies to develop the necessary supportive learning environments that were not available during my career shift. One of our strengths as a [Royal] College is that we have all the specialties under one roof and can share across them. We can recruit beyond our profession to create collaborative centres that will support and enable our Fellows to adjust.

This will be a significant change in what we expect of CPD [continuing professional development]. Less monitoring; more mentoring and actively, proactively serving as a catalyst. It means that we recognize the oversight of learning does not stop at certification and that this requires the active participation of the Royal College.

We know that medicine is a continual journey and I am looking forward to working with you so that our members feel our Royal College is there to support them during this time of unprecedented change. I know we have the skills, knowledge and passion in this room and our [Royal] College to make it happen.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to our current president, Dr. Françoise Chagnon.

When describing Françoise it’s hard not to revert to surgical metaphors: sharp, incisive, able to cut through the confusion. These aside, over the past year I have come to admire Dr. Chagnon as a true leader. Françoise is always inclusive, consulting widely — a genuine collaborator. She is a good listener and very careful to summarize and consolidate opinion. For me, a classic moment we have shared on a number of occasions comes as she turns to me with that wry smile and a tilt of her head and murmurs “something for you to follow-up.”

Françoise, merci pour votre passion, pour votre curiosité insatiable et, surtout, pour toujours chercher à offrir plus de valeur à nos Associés. En public et en privé, vous faites passer ce thème au premier plan. Vous le faites parfois sans détour, mais il est toujours clair que vous tentez d’améliorer le système et ce que le Collège royal offre aux Associés.

I only hope that I can demonstrate some of that passion and devotion to the [Royal] College that you have shown us over your tenure. A very big thank you and I count on your continued mentorship and advice.

Once again, thank you again, everyone, for this incredible honour and for your support as we take this next step on our journey.