Extraordinary leadership in extraordinary times: Reflections on Immediate Past-President Dr. Ian Bowmer
Ian Bowmer, MDCM, FRCPC, FRCP, FCAHS, has officially ended his term as Royal College President. He leaves behind an incredible legacy, marked in large part by his extraordinary leadership and resolve during the COVID-19 pandemic, arguably one of the most challenging in the Royal College’s history.
“Dr. Bowmer’s nimble brain, quiet respect and strong ethics have always made him a major leader in health care in this country, but the needs of the past 15 months have allowed him to be absolutely the right person in the right place at the right time. He has weathered the storm with grace and aplomb, always listening and reflecting, even in moments of crisis,” said Council member Bill Pope, MD, FRCPC.
Council member Mark Walton, MD, FRCSC, echoed these sentiments, adding, “His steadying influence has been remarkable in dealing with this incredible challenge for the organization.”
A steady guide through uncertain times
Together with new CEO Susan Moffatt-Bruce, MD, FRCSC, PhD, MBA, MBOE, FACS, Dr. Bowmer led the Royal College through these uncertain times during which spring 2020 applied exams were cancelled and written exams postponed, resulting in an online petition to cancel written exams that prompted a Special Meeting of the Members in late May. The motion to cancel written exams was ultimately denied and spring written exams were successfully delivered in fall 2020 with an online option made available to candidates for the very first time. In addition, to limit travel for candidates who wrote paper-based exams, 14 new exam centres were set up in Canada, the United States and around the globe, for a total of 29 exam centres.
“Working with Dr. Bowmer has been inspirational. His calm demeanor and tremendous breadth of experience has been very much appreciated,” said Dr. Moffatt-Bruce.
Dr. Bowmer was instrumental in leading the Royal College to be agile, to respond, to seek creative opportunities and to pivot.
“At one of the most challenging and disruptive times in Royal College history which called for difficult decisions, we were fortunate to have a President with the judgment and skill to balance diverse pandemic-related pressures and interests while maintaining progress in standards and quality through consensus generation and accelerated digital innovation for certification,” said public Council member Major-General J.J.-R.S. Bernier, OMM, CD, QHP, BA (Hons), MD, MPH, DEH, DSc(hon), FRCPSC (Hon), KM.
Public Council member Rose Carter, QC, agreed, adding, “I will always remember his resolve in this and his handling of the issues in a professional, educated and kind manner.”
New initiatives launched during his presidency
A number of important initiatives were also introduced or advanced during Dr. Bowmer’s presidency. These include the Royal College’s new strategic plan (and vision), the launch of CanERA, Canada’s new postgraduate medical accreditation system, the continued implementation of Competence by Design and the release of the Royal College Employment Study and the AI and the Future of Medicine Report.
In addition to his unparalleled leadership during the pandemic, Council members remarked on his collaborative and inclusive approach.
A thoughtful leadership style
“My first impressions were that he was thoughtful, very well organized and sincerely interested in our thoughts and feedback. Over time, these first impressions have not changed and reflect the personal attributes and leadership style that have characterized my interactions with him. His thoughtful demeanour and consideration for others has complemented his considerable skills as President,” shared Council member Randolph P. Guzman, MD, FRCSC, FACS, RVT, RPVI, ICD.D.
Council member John Finley, MSc, MDCM, FRCPC, added, “He always shows a sincere personal interest in those on Council and others, especially our resident members.”
Dr. Bowmer will continue to serve in the role of Immediate Past-President throughout 2021-2022.