We got the chance to chat with Dr. Bernard Ho, a PGY-3 in Family Practice – Emergency Medicine. Dr. Ho recently received the 2020 Award of Merit after being nominated by his colleagues. We discussed with Dr. Ho the various projects and advocacy work he has been involved in, such as national pharmacare and creating a Wellness Committee for his program.
Through your work with CDM, you have been strongly involved in advocating for a national pharmacare strategy. Can you tell us more about your advocacy work and experiences? Do you have any words of advice on how to get involved in advocacy, for this cause or others, for residents wishing to get involved but unsure where to start?
I think what drew me towards advocacy work was the experience of my parents. They’re both immigrants from Hong Kong who worked tirelessly for me and my brother, but throughout our childhood, I saw firsthand how the social determinants of health affected every aspect of our lives. So, I’ve always felt a strong pull towards making our healthcare system more equitable and accessible for all.
I really started getting involved with advocacy initiatives during medical school back in Ontario. I participated in the Lobby Day efforts with the Ontario Medical Students Association (OMSA) and the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS), where we would meet with MPPs and MPs to discuss important issues like national pharmacare and the opioid epidemic. It was also in medical school that I first learned about Canadian Doctors for Medicare and became involved as a member ever since.
For any medical student or resident hoping to get involved in advocacy work, I would say to find an issue that you’re passionate about, find an advocacy group related to that issue, and let them know you’re interested in helping out. I can’t think of any organization who wouldn’t be thrilled to have an extra set of hands from a motivated learner. I know it can be a bit intimidating at first, or at least it was for me, but everyone started somewhere.
Similarly, you have been working with RDoC on the National Licensure team. What has this experience been like for you?
It was a great experience to work on a national project that affects almost all physicians, and to do so with a group of talented and motivated residents. Currently in Canada we have a piece-meal system of licensure between each province and territory, despite extensive similarities in the application processes and documents required. The medicine that we practice also doesn’t change from one province to another, so it just makes sense to have one national license that would allow physicians to move more easily between regions. It could theoretically also improve the physician shortage in remote and underserved communities, as there would be less of a financial barrier to licensing.
There’s actually a significant amount of support for a national licensure from residents, practicing physicians, and even the Atlantic Premiers. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has put a pause on this advocacy effort as there are currently more pressing concerns, but I am hopeful that we can resume these discussions soon. I think COVID itself has highlighted the need for greater physician mobility, as there are many hotspots that desperately require more manpower, like Ontario, who is now asking physicians from other provinces to consider assisting with their third wave.
In your role as Co-Chief Resident for UBC’s Enhanced Skills program, you helped create a Wellness Committee that strives to better the working environment of residents and their wellbeing. What do you find to be some core aspects of wellness in residency? How do you personally go about working on your own personal wellness?
Some core aspects of wellness that I believe are especially important in residency are positive collegial relationships, dedicated personal time, and opportunities for growth and learning. Those are aspects that I strive to create and improve on in both my personal and professional life. I have a good group of friends and co-residents that I can count on when I run into problems or when I’m not feeling at my best. I also try and carve out dedicated time for my hobbies and for non-medicine activities every so often just to try and keep a balanced life. I’m very fortunate to have great mentors who support my interests and share career opportunities that allow me to grow as a physician. I’ve certainly benefited from these relationships and so I try to provide the same mentorship and guidance to medical students and residents that I work with.
During this past year, you led the Virtual Care Project Team under RDoC. Virtual care has been on the rise this past year as communities have transitioned to virtual healthcare. Can you tell us more about this project? Such as–did it begin prior to 2020, or did it come about as a point of interest in the transition to healthcare due to COVID-19?
The Virtual Care Project Team is new as of this year and to my knowledge, RDoC did not have a big focus on virtual care until the pandemic started. Nonetheless, I’ve got a great team of residents from all years and specialities with a wealth of experience in virtual care. COVID has definitely put the spotlight on virtual care and telemedicine as more and more physicians transition to this new aspect of healthcare. Our focus is to define the issues surrounding virtual care as it relates to residency training and to come up with innovative solutions. We’re still fairly early into our brainstorming and ideation process, but the exciting part is that virtual care is new to everyone, so we’re all learning together. Virtual care is also here to stay, even after the pandemic is resolved, and so I strongly believe that the ideas we come up with and the recommendations we make will help lay the groundwork for future residents and for their medical curricula.
Lastly, are there any other projects and initiatives on the horizon for you that you have your eye on?
None right now! I know my limits and I think I’ve already got a good group of projects going on right now. I’m also pretty close to becoming a staff physician (finally), so I’m trying to sharpen up my medical knowledge before then. I would like to pursue a Master of Public Policy sometime after I graduate though.