On Monday April 14th, over 40 medical students from across Ontario arrived at Queen’s Park to meet with Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) and discuss the importance of health human resources (HHR). Over the weekend, as part of the OMSA's Leadership Summit and Lobby Day weekend, delegates had the opportunity to participate in a variety of leadership activities, learn more about health human resources, and question established physicians in small fireside chats about their career paths and journeys to their current positions.
As a member of the OMSA Political Advocacy Committee (OPAC), I was incredibly fortunate to be attending my second Lobby Day this year. Human health resources was chosen as this year's topic because there is a desire to ensure that the healthcare needs of Ontarians are met both geographically and by specialty – to ensure that the right number and types of physicians are in the right places at the right time to meet the evolving needs of the population.
On behalf of the Ontario Medical Student's Association, we asked the MPPs we met with to support the development of a publicly accessible database on the HealthForceOntario website (a division of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care) which would compile both current and future projected data on health care needs by specialty and geographic location. As medical students, having access to this information early on in our professional careers will give us the ability to make more informed career choices; recent articles and studies, including last year's study by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (1), are drawing attention to the problem of physician unemployment and underemployment upon completion of residency training.
Our Lobby Day began bright and early at Queen’s Park with an address from the lively Dr. Helena Jaczek, MPP (Oak Ridges – Markham), Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Long Term Care. Delegates then had the opportunity to attend Question Period, where they were welcomed to the Ontario Legislature. Following Question Period, delegates learned about the concept of health hubs from MPP Bill Walker (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) and were also addressed by MPP France Gelinas (Nickel Belt), who talked about how physician payment schemes can affect the delivery of patient care.
The afternoon was dedicated to student meetings with MPPs. I had the opportunity, with fellow OPAC member Jillian Belrose, to meet with the Honorable Liz Sandals, Minister of Education (MPP Guelph). I was very impressed with the Minister’s grasp of both the importance and complexity of HHR planning from the level of medical school through residency and into medical practice. I greatly appreciated the time the Minister spent with us and I look forward to working with her in the future to better utilize HHR to address the healthcare needs of Ontarians.
With the increasing recognition of the ability of social media to reach a large target audience, it was integrated into Lobby Day as an effective way to reach delegates and politicians through the use of the hashtag #omsalobby. A Tweet from the OMA a few days before Lobby Day really made me pause and reflect upon exactly what tangible experiences delegates take away from such an event.
It was initially hard for me to figure out exactly what I was most looking forward to. The stated purpose of Lobby Day is to meet with MPPs to discuss an issue of importance to Ontario medical students. However, Lobby Day is so much more than that. Having the chance to hear from experienced physicians in leadership positions is always a phenomenal learning opportunity, as is expanding upon leadership skills through workshops and small group sessions. However, at the heart of Lobby Day is an invaluable opportunity to meet and be inspired by colleagues from across the province who are passionate about a variety of important causes and are dedicated to improving their skills in order to become stronger advocates for their future patients. For me this has been the highlight of my two Lobby Day experiences and the largest thing that I have taken away from each experience – a sense of awe that I am privileged to work alongside so many amazing colleagues and a renewed sense of purpose and direction for future advocacy.
On behalf of all of the delegates, I'd like to extend a huge thank you to the OMSA executive team, the OMA, and the OPAC for organizing such an amazing weekend. I left refreshed, re-energized, and re-inspired for the many future advocacy efforts that lie ahead of me in my professional career.
References: 1. Fréchette, D., Hollenberg, D., Shrichand, A., Jacob, C., & Datta, I. (2013). What’s really behind Canada's unemployed specialists? Too many, too few doctors? Findings from the Royal College's employment study. Ottawa, Ontario: The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
- Hollis R. (Queen's University)