Maclean’s healthcare power list announced
March 22, 2023
TORONTO – Maclean’s magazine has produced a “power list” consisting of 100 Canadian who are shaping the country. It consists of a cohort of Canadians whose ideas and inventions are forging new industries and reinventing old ones. Their feature report consists of 10 categories, including healthcare, which profiles 10 healthcare innovators. Here are the healthcare change-makers.
1. Alika Lafontaine (pictured)
Alika Lafontaine is the Canadian Medical Association’s current (and first Indigenous) president. Since 2022, the veteran anesthesiologist, based in Grande Prairie, Alberta, has consulted with politicians, policymakers and the roughly 70,000 physicians and trainees who belong to the CMA, the largest advocacy group for Canadian doctors. He’s pushing for a streamlined licensing protocol, one that allows physicians to more easily cross provincial borders, to practise where they’re most needed. He’s also trying to revive his colleagues’ morale, hollowed out by thousands-deep patient rosters and months-long stints without so much as a vacation day. It’s a good thing anesthesiologists are known for their steady hands.
Lafontaine’s main priority as CMA head honcho will be pushing for pan-Canadian licensure, an overhaul that would allow doctors to transcend provincial and territorial borders without enduring time-consuming recertifications that can, in the current system, run docs up to $3,000 a pop. He sees promise in the federal government’s proposed $196-billion funding boost, a financial band-aid that also includes commitments to support regional movement. He’ll also be doubling down on team-based care, a model that allows patients to be referred to physicians who may not be in their jurisdiction but have more bandwidth to help them, if their current doc is strapped. (And they probably are.)
The way Lafontaine sees it, the future of Canadian healthcare doesn’t hinge on eerily precise robotics or state-of-the-art facilities but on our ability to bring his fellow doctors back from the brink. Part of that involves holding firm at policy tables. Another part is helping physicians help us. His sector may be facing one of the worst HR problems in Canadian history, but like any skilled care expert would, Lafontaine is there to provide a listening ear (and steady hands) as its bones are reset.
2. Gabor Maté
Physician & author
Maté was an established author decades before his latest bestseller, The Myth of Normal, captured the public consciousness last year. The Hungarian-born physician spent years practising medicine on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, training his compassionate eye on the city’s addiction issues and—the real game changer—linking them (and poverty) to past trauma.
As Canadian society confronts political minefields, like drug decriminalization, medically assisted death and other compounded crises, it makes sense that the Gospel of Gabor has been embraced by right-leaning celebrity podcasters (Joe Rogan), literary circles (22 weeks atop the Globe and Mail’s non-fiction list) and everyday self-help seekers alike. Maté’s message – that stress is normal when society isn’t – is deeply of the moment.
3. Michael Dingle
COO, Telus Health
Michael Dingle knows a healthy worker is a happy worker, especially post-pandemic. Mere months after he took over as head of operations at Telus Health, the company acquired LifeWorks (formerly Morneau Shepell) for a cool $2.3 billion. Since then, the digital-health venture has signed corporate clients including Walmart, providing feel-good benefits (like 24/7 virtual care) to the retailer’s 100,000-strong army of Canadian employees. It’s a welcome advancement in a climate of IRL medical bottlenecks – and WFH blues – but it also put Telus at the centre of the country’s ongoing public-versus-private squabble. Last December, British Columbia’s Medical Services Commission filed for an injunction against the firm’s LifePlus program, alleging that its enticing fee-for-service plan contravened B.C.’s Medicare Protection Act.
4. Tomi Poutanen
Co-founder & CEO, Signal 1
Pull back the curtain on many of Canada’s most exciting AI-driven projects and you’ll likely find Tomi Poutanen at the helm. With Signal 1, Poutanen is using all that AI acumen to improve patient flow in and out of Canada’s overcrowded ERs and hospital beds (which continue to be premium real estate). In January, Signal 1 was rolled out at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, where it analyzed the facility’s wealth of electronic medical records and delivered real-time data on how and when to discharge patients directly to some presumably grateful docs. Here’s another prediction: Signal 1 is likely to scale Canada-wide.
5. Leigh Chapman
Chief Nursing Officer
Canada hadn’t had a chief nursing officer in almost a decade but faced with a desperate staffing deficit – which could hit a shortage of 120,000 nurses by 2030 – the federal government tapped Leigh Chapman to step in last year. Chapman, who got involved in addictions medicine after the death of her older brother, Brad, from opioid use, is something of a Renaissance nurse. She’s got expertise in areas such as long-term care, mental health and, happily, health workforce planning. For the next year, Chapman will provide wise counsel to Canada’s governments (provincial and federal), regulatory bodies and other health-policy bigwigs, advocating for relief measures such as faster hiring of internationally accredited nurses, plus cross-provincial registration for the roughly 400,000 nurses practising at home. If Chapman has any say, there will soon be many more of them.
6. Timothy Caulfield
Professor & author
Timothy Caulfield calls bullshit – on anti-maskers, conspiracy theorists, Gwyneth Paltrow and pretty much anything that goes “quack.” Caulfield, a recent recipient of the Order of Canada, and a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, has so far dedicated an acclaimed Netflix documentary series (A User’s Guide to Cheating Death) and four books to tackling the modern scourge of pandemic-induced misinformation – a phenomenon that even the World Health Organization has classified, rather cleverly, as an “infodemic.”
As Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine-uptake rates continue to bottom out, Caulfield’s debunking will grow ever more valuable, on Twitter and elsewhere. His first recommendation: teaching kids critical-thinking skills – starting in kindergarten.
7. Mona Gupta
Psychiatrist, University of Montreal
If Canada’s healthcare system is experiencing a crisis of morale, the issue of medical assistance in dying, or MAID, seems to hinge on a crisis of conscience. Gupta, a nationally recognized voice in the field of bioethics, was chosen last year to chair an expert panel convened by the Liberal government to provide recommendations on how to safely extend MAID to Canadians whose sole medical condition is mental illness. (Some critics have argued that medically assisted death could become an inadvertent “cure” for things like poverty and homelessness.) In the face of the government tabling legislation to push back MAID’s expansion to March of 2024, Gupta has represented a rare (and uniquely qualified) voice of dissent against the delay, standing up for Canadians’ right to die on their own terms and timelines.
8. John Sinclair
President, Novari Health
As Ontario’s Ford government gears up to expand the suite of services offered at for-profit surgical clinics, John Sinclair, president of the health-tech firm Novari Health, has parallel plans to make the public route run more smoothly. Last December, Novari Health announced a commitment to equip hospitals dotted around eastern Ontario with Novari HUB, its proprietary centralized wait-list software. Ideally, that will result in slashed wait times for procedures, more seamless coordination of services between facilities in the region and fewer surgical bottlenecks created by COVID-related postponements. (At one point last year, that count exceeded one million surgeries.) The whole shebang is a first-of-its-kind initiative anywhere in Canada. Hospitals in Cornwall, Nepean and Gloucester are part of Novari Health’s early 2023 HUB rollout.
9. Patricia Gauthier
President & General Manager, Moderna Canada
When Gauthier became Moderna’s first Canadian lead in 2020 – a.k.a. peak pandemic – she quickly got to work. Since then, Gauthier, who previously spent more than a decade at pharma giant GSK, has overseen a country-wide effort to establish Canada as an epicentre of vaccine production. Last November, Moderna broke ground on a state-of-the-art facility just outside of Laval, Quebec, with a completion date set for 2024, an annual quota of 100 million COVID vaccines and the promise of a new biotech bubble outside of Toronto.
If that weren’t enough, Moderna is currently experimenting with another revolutionary RNA-based inoculation, this time against RSV. The company plans to submit its RSV vaccine for approval in the first half of this year.
10. Alan Forster
Executive Vice-President, Chief Innovation & Quality Officer, The Ottawa Hospital
What could a smart hospital do? Ideally, monitor patients’ medication use, contain plenty of physician-friendly AI tools, help docs predict bed counts and generally shake up standards for care, Canada-wide. Those are the starter goals of a new partnership between the global med-tech company Becton, Dickinson and Company and The Ottawa Hospital, led by the facility’s own Alan Forster. Forster, who in the past has been a vocal critic of the Canadian healthcare system’s techno-paralysis, predicts that his workplace’s intelligent overhaul could eventually track medical efficiencies right down to bags of IV fluid used. The Ottawa Hospital plans to get progressively smarter (and cooler) until the planned opening of its new Civic campus in 2028.