Alica Lafontaine, first Aboriginal president of the Canadian Medical Association

I had great learning difficultiesDr. Lafontaine said in an interview with Dr. Brian Goldman for White coat, black art. People were fast […] To classify me as someone who did not succeed because of my learning difficulties.

However, on August 21, 2022, Dr. Lafontaine will take up his position as President of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Thus he will become the first local leader ofCMA.

However, the appointment comes at a time when Canada’s healthcare system is grappling with difficulties exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic: Doctors are experiencing professional burnout, nurses are resigning en masse and patients have to endure long expectations in emergencies.

as head ofCMADr. Lafontaine will also have to supervise over 68,000 physicians and trainees who are members of this association. L ‘CMA It is Canada’s largest advocacy group for physicians.

I hope all doctors across the country feel like they’re hearing them like never before. »

Quote from Dr. Alica Lafontaine, President of the Canadian Medical Association

Dr. Lafontaine grew up in Treaty 4 territory in southern Saskatchewan. He works as an anesthesiologist at Regional Hospital in Grand Prairie, Alberta.

He says the challenges he faced growing up and his experiences as an Aboriginal physician – Mr. Lafontaine has Métis, Ojibway and Cree ancestry – help him better understand those who feel they have no voice.

As president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Lafontaine will oversee more than 68,000 physicians and trainees who are members of Canada’s largest physician advocacy association.

Photo: CBC/Dr. Brian Goldman

Dr. Lafontaine graduated from high school at the age of fourteen. Then he started his studies at medical school. Finally, he completed his medical residency at the age of 28.

He describes his childhood experiences as Huge motivation.

Dr. Lafontaine spoke with Brian Goldman about his hopes and priorities as president of the Canadian Medical Association.


Brian Goldman : Not a day goes by that we don’t read on social media that the emergency department can no longer accept new patients for a few hours or a few days. What is your view on this situation? There are those who say the system is on the verge of collapse, which is probably an exaggeration.

Dr. Alica Lafontaine: I think it depends on where you are currently. The human resource crisis in health services affects people differently, depending on service availability and options.

If someone had access to only one emergency room in their entire city, as is the case here in Grande Prairie, the HR health crisis would affect them in a very different way.


Brian Goldman : Emergency services [de Grande Prairie] Have you closed before?

Dr.. Alica Lafontaine: Not that. But many other emergency departments in the surrounding area had to close, and that put a lot of pressure on our emergency department, because somewhere patients had to be screened for their problems. [de santé].

I think in some places the system is on the verge of collapse. I also think these places are usually outside the main centres.

The stress of being on site all the time is important for healthcare workers in all sectors [d’activité]find normal. In fact, it has become normal for nurses to be deprived of their holidays and forced to return to the hospital. It has also become normal for doctors to function well after they are exhausted, which is their tolerance threshold.

We now live in an environment where care suffers […]. Hundreds of thousands of people have not received care because we have had to cut services in the middle of the pandemic due to hospital overload, not to mention other factors.

But people now understand that the things we did during the COVID-19 pandemic are not normal for us and that they affect everything we do.

When we never take time off, it does damage to our body. [Ça] It harms relationships and our ability to be happy and optimistic. People need space and time to recover. However, sometimes this space is not offered because the system [de santé] I was just saying: Go for it. You have to go to work. And we have to start working. So people leave.


Brian Goldman You are about to take over as President of the Canadian Medical Association. How do you feel about this?

Dr. Alica Lafontaine: It’s surreal. I’m thinking of the confidence my colleagues in Alberta have shown in me by choosing me as the next president of the CMA, to become the voice of Canadian doctors and what that means.

main roleCMA It is to help people understand how their work fits into the larger context of the health care system. How do we need to relate the extended goals we have of care when faced with resistance from the system and how we can do things better.

Healing will take a long time. The problem will not be 100% resolved the year he becomes president ofCMAbut I think we can all make a huge impact when we tell the truth where we stand.


Brian Goldman : You are the first Aboriginal doctor to hold this position. What would you like to achieve as the first indigenous president of the CMA?

Dr. Alica Lafontaine: I would find it normal for Aboriginal physicians to hold positions and lead organizations.

In addition, a space must be created not only for indigenous communities but also for those that did not but should exist.

I think we are trying to solve problems [et] If we are not invited to the table [de discussion] People who already have these problems, we will miss the most important elements in understanding these problems within the system. We have historically excluded voices and ostracized people.

And I think it takes voiceless people in these positions of power to be able to make sense of what’s missing. [dans les organes de gouvernance].

Based on text from Ruby Boyza, CBC

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