I would like to begin by thanking Dr. John Falconer for his five years of service as President of the Specialists of BC. I am honoured and humbled to take over from him as your new SBC President. During my time in this role, it is my goal to foster an organization grounded in the principles of inclusion, collaboration, transparency and balance of representation across the diversity of specialties in the SBC tent.
As we emerge from the pandemic there are many issues facing Specialist care: the future of virtual medicine, post-pandemic PPE requirements, surgical catch-up, to name a few. Collective advocacy will continue to be essential for Specialists and the SBC will continue to provide this.
There has been a recent push by BC Family Doctors to have family physicians recognized as specialists themselves. With their unique training and expertise in primary care and a knowledge base which covers the daunting breadth of medicine, our colleagues in family medicine deserve to be celebrated and respected. The proposed extension of the ‘specialist’ nomenclature to family physicians is an avenue they see to fostering this recognition. There is concern, however, that this change risks introducing confusion to the general public, licencing authorities, and the government. This situation and the related significant implications is an illustration of the necessity for Specialists (as we have been traditionally known) to have a strong counter-balancing organization of our own. Our influence is lost if we fracture into our individual specialties without the cohesive voice of the SBC. The SBC needs to remain a strong society to promote the interests of both Specialist physicians and those of our patients.
That being said, we are currently at a cross-roads in our organization, with leadership change and a tenuous membership/financial model which is in need of change if we are to remain viable. We have a lot of work to do over the next couple of years to revitalize our organization. I am confident, however, that with a collective and collaborative effort we can renew the SBC to ensure it remains a prominent and sustainable voice for Specialist care in all of its many forms.
Although I take on the job as your President with some trepidation, it is also with optimism and a hope that we can all recognize each other’s value and respect each other’s training, sacrifice, and dedication to a calling which is truly honourable and humbling – caring for each other. I look forward to working with all of you to guide the SBC through this period of renewal.
Please reach out any time and if you wish to be more involved in the SBC, let us know! The SBC runs on your engagement!
Wishing you all a well-deserved restful summer.
Dr. Chris Hoag
President, Specialists of BC
Below is a summary of some of the highlights of issues that your Executive is currently working on:
- SBC Renewal: The report from the SBC Renewal Working Group (RWG) was endorsed unanimously by specialty groups at the April 29 Council of Specialists meeting. The Executive is now beginning the work to implement its multiple recommendations. Regular updates will be provided to Council as a standing item at Council meetings during this process. A highlight of the RWG recommendations include:
- New membership collection model designed to decrease individual dues while diffusing the costs across the breadth of specialists for whom the SBC advocates
- Lower barriers to meeting attendance by maintaining virtual meetings once COVID subsides; as of February 2022, we will alternate in-person and virtual Council of Specialists meetings
- Increased meeting relevance – in addition to the traditional format of presentations from other organizations, we will have task-oriented discussions on topics of concern to specialty groups as a regular part of Council meetings. As an example, the next SBC meeting in September will include a discussion on what the roles of the Disparity Data and Overhead Working Group (DDOWG) should be going forward.
- DDOWG Revitalization: The DDOWG will become a standing committee with balanced representation from medical/surgical/diagnostic specialties. A new name, updated terms of reference and regular reporting requirements to Council will be introduced, while the power to endorse recommendations of the new committee will remain with Council. In addition to addressing inter-sectional disparity, this committee should also inform the allocation process between family doctors and Specialists and other economic issues, such as the gender pay gap and full-time equivalent (FTE) definition.
- “Specialists” in Family Medicine: Many of you will be aware of the recent collaboration by BC Family Doctors and the College of Family Practice of BC to rebrand family doctors as “specialists in family medicine.” The expressed motivation behind this effort is to raise the profile of and increase respect for family doctors. Your Executive has concerns about this development including:
- Lack of consultation with Specialists
- Contravention of College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC (CPSBC) bylaws which prohibit family doctors from referring to themselves as ‘specialists’
- Potential confusion by the public
- Possible misrepresentation of qualifications (consider the family physician with an ‘area of interest’)
- Future funding implications of this nomenclature change
Over the last three months, we have engaged with the CPSBC to ask for their position on this development and to express our concerns, underlining the importance of maintaining the distinction between Primary Care/Family Practice and Consultant Specialist care.
- Other ongoing advocacy: We continue to advocate for clear personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines as we begin to emerge from the pandemic and as provincial health orders pertaining to PPE begin to relax. We also need to keep pace with the communication codes that our family doctor colleagues enjoy. We will continue to engage with our partner organizations on these issues.