Recipients of the Dr. Ian Bowmer Award for Leadership in Social Accountability
September 23, 2019
Gender-affirming care, addiction treatment at the heart of work for Dr. Ian Bowmer award winners
To honour his retirement after 11 years as Executive Director, the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) created the one-time Dr. Ian Bowmer Award for Leadership in Social Accountability for 2019.
Dr. Bowmer, who retired from the MCC in 2018, assumed the helm of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada as its 45th president in February 2019.
A $5,000 award will be given to one medical student and one resident who have demonstrated leadership in social accountability within the Schools of Medicine in Canada. In the spirit of Dr. Bowmer’s advocacy work, the MCC Selection Committee was looking for two award winners based on their capacity to engage society with respect and forge a common vision through collaboration with stakeholders. While the Committee received many exceptional nominations from medical schools across Canada, a medical student from Alberta who advocated for training in gender-affirming care and a resident who improved addiction treatment services in Northern Ontario are the recipients for the Dr. Ian Bowmer award.
Dr. Nicole Thompson
Dr. Nicole Thompson, who grew up in Edmonton, had been in medical school at the University of Calgary for just six months when she raised the issue of gender-affirming care during a course on how to conduct genital examinations on men and women.
“I put up my hand and asked, ‘Do we ever learn about doing exams for non-cisgender people?” she recalls.
Her lecturer told her the class didn’t cover these exams, and suggested she look into the issue. Thompson then created four hours of curriculum content on gender-affirming care, all taught in partnership with the LGBQT+ community, which the University of Calgary has since implemented as a session in its Global Health unit.
Even prior to medical school, Thompson was advocating for gender-affirming care for her clients and while working in harm reduction clinics as an occupational therapist. Thompson is now working on a research study to create recommendations for gender-affirming standards for the curriculum at medical schools, and ways to combat potential bias and transphobia amongst medical students and doctors.
Gender-diverse people have higher rates of suicide, sexual assault, and homelessness, and overall poorer outcomes than people who identify with the genders they were assigned at birth, Thompson points out. These outcomes are what motivate her to improve care.
Thompson will be receiving the award and attending the MCC Annual Meeting dinner in Ottawa in September 2019.
This is an opportunity to sit with other like-minded people at the dinner to talk about how we can influence the culture of medicine and the culture of society to promote inclusiveness.”
Dr. Nicole Thompson
Dr. Lloyd Douglas
Joining Thompson will be fellow award winner Dr. Lloyd Douglas, who, as a medical resident, was promoting inclusivity through better healthcare for Indigenous residents of Northern Ontario, and particularly addiction treatment.
Douglas, who has since finished his residency, was nominated for the award because of his work in the Public Health and Preventive Medicine Residency Program at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
After completing an elective in addictions medicine, he revitalized the addictions program at the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre by providing a medical approach that included consultations and treatment with suboxone and buprenorphine-naloxone for patients with opioid addictions. He was the first doctor in the area to use depot-naltrexone for complex cases of alcoholism and is gratified to see its use growing in the region following his advocacy. He also trained a nurse practitioner to provide services when he had to leave the community temporarily to complete his residency training.
The difference in people once they have received a drug to help with their cravings is incredible, says Douglas. “It’s not bullet-proof, but it does help,” he says.
“When you see someone who is on a maintenance use of suboxone and they are getting back their kids – it is so rewarding. The biggest thing is breaking down the stigma and saying, ‘I get it – we’re all addicted to something’. I can’t get enough of helping people like that.”
Growing up in Jamaica as part of a close extended family, he did not realize how disconnected he was from his own history, he says. Providing care for the people on the 33 First Nations that the Sioux Lookout region serves has been a real honour, Douglas says.
“Somehow I find my identity – bits and pieces of myself in them,” he says. “These are my people. They are helping me. Their stories enrich my own life.”
Receiving the Dr. Ian Bowmer Award for Leadership in Social Accountability has boosted Douglas’ self-confidence, as he pursues a career in public health and addictions medicine in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.
This just confirms where I should be and who I should be working with: Indigenous peoples, for Indigenous peoples. I want them to be my boss.”
Dr. Lloyd Douglas
Photo (from left to right):
Dr. Jay Rosenfield, Dr. Ian Bowmer, Dr. Nicole Thompson,
Dr. Lloyd Douglas, Dr. Maureen Topps