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Building A Community of Practice: NOSM Hosts First Pan-Northern Physician Leadership Forum

Posted on August 1, 2018
Northern Lights Leadership Forum

In February 2018, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine hosted Northern Lights, Northern Ontario’s first PanNorthern Physician Leadership Forum. Northern Lights was the result of collaborations involving NOSM, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), and the Associated Medical Services (AMS) Phoenix Fellowship Program, all of which share a commitment to physician leadership development. “Developing leaders focuses on individuals, but leadership development is when we develop models of leadership within organizations,” says Dr. James Goertzen, Assistant Dean of Continuing Education and Professional Development at NOSM and AMS Phoenix Fellow. “With Northern Lights, we are shifting towards leadership development in Northern Ontario.”

The transition from leader development to leadership development requires a shift in the culture of collaboration and engagement within and between organizations, according to Dr. Goertzen. The goal of Northern Lights was to create a model of leadership development that specifically addressed the unique needs of physicians and health-care organizations in Northern Ontario. “A lot of what we do in Ontario in terms of health care is pretty Toronto-centric, including leadership development, so we were looking at how we can take the existing models and make them work for Northern Ontario,” he says. “One of our biggest considerations in the North is geography, so bringing people together via a pan-northern physician leadership forum was a way in which we could address the isolation many physician leaders face due to the geographical challenges of living and practicing in Northern Ontario.”

When organizing the forum, Dr. Goertzen says there was also a specific focus on ensuring those attending represented a cross section of communities, genders, career levels, as well as various hospitals and health-care organizations in Northern Ontario. Northern Lights included 37 residents, new graduates, physicians in their early careers and experienced physician leaders from communities across the North, including Kenora, Dryden, Thunder Bay, Marathon, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins, North Bay, Parry Sound and Manitoulin Island. It also included representatives from a range of health-care organizations including NOSM, the Northern Ontario Academic Medicine Association, the Physician Clinical Teachers’ Association, OMA, Local Education Groups and Northern Ontario academic health sciences centres and teaching hospitals.

The rare opportunity to network and make face-to-face connections with other Northern Ontario physician leaders was the highlight of the event for many in attendance, according to Dr. Goertzen. “Building collaborations is crucial to leadership development, and part of that is bringing people together and giving them the opportunity to develop relationships,” he says. “At Northern Lights, physicians at different phases of their leadership journeys were able to share perspectives, learn from each other, and start a dialogue for the development of a supportive community of Northern Ontario Physician leaders.”

During the two-and-a-half-day event, participants completed the Physician Leadership Institute Course titled Engaging Others. The forum also featured guided discussions exploring strategies to support mutual engagement with guests from OMA, the Ontario Hospital Association and Health Quality Ontario, as well as the relationships between physician engagement, resilience, and burnout along with strategies to promote physician wellness. Planning for Northern Lights 2019 is already underway, says Dr. Goertzen, with the continued focus on creating a system-wide, collaborative network of physician leaders in health-care settings and organizations across the North. “The ultimate goal is to develop a community of practice of Northern Ontario physician leaders,” he says. “As we have a mandate to improve the health of people living in the North, we need to be using leadership development to assist us, and that means looking at a model of leadership development that’s more collaborative and more responsive to the needs of people in our care.”


Read more stories like this in the latest issue of Northern Passages.