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Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today 

Dr. Evan Adams was not elected as president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association, and missed out on being the second Indigenous person to hold the position.

In a Friday announcement, Dr. Kathleen Ross was nominated as president-elect. Dr. Alika Lafontaine who has Anishnaabe, Cree, Metis and Pacific Islander ancestry will be moving ahead as president of the association.

Adams, a Tla’amin First Nation citizen, who has a well-known acting career from playing Thomas Builds-The-Fire in the movie “Smoke Signals,” said on March 4 on “ICT Newscast with Aliyah Chavez” that his father would talk to him about Indigenous leadership, the importance of being service-oriented and humble.

“I loved being an actor, but I knew I should come back to responsibility,” he said about pursuing a medical career.

Adams said he was apprehensive at first to be in the running for president-elect but was encouraged by other physicians and Indigenous physicians to take the leap.

“I thought, yeah, it’s time for us to rise up,” he said.

In a statement, Adams said that his goals were to address “physician workplaces, physician culture and systemic issues to address workload and wellness,” from the effects of the pandemic; implement more equity, diversity and inclusion to the association and profession; advance reconciliation especially to address “anti-Indigenous racism and advance cultural safety and humility in the health system.”

“As an Indigenous lifelong learner, learning from knowledge keepers and medical teachers is part of who we are. Mentorship is incredibly important to me. I aim to advance ways to connect mentors and mentees for accessible, on-going support, guidance and advice, especially throughout medical school and during career transitions.” Adams wrote. “I will lead in a good way, with humility and an open heart.”

Only Canadian Medical Association members from British Columbia were able to vote. Under its bylaws, 50 CMA members have until March 21 to put forward any additional eligible candidates from British Columbia. If there are none, Ross will be ratified at the Canadian Medical Association’s Annual General Meeting in mid-August.

“It is important that the CMA has leadership that reflects the diversity of the medical profession and the communities we serve to ensure a wide range of experiences, perspectives and skills to provide better solutions, drive innovation and creativity, and enhance decision-making. We encourage applications from candidates of all backgrounds and experiences.” read the Canadian Medical Association’s website.

Adams works as the deputy chief medical officer of public health at Indigenous Services Canada. He previously served as the chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, being the first-ever Aboriginal health physician advisor in the Office of the Provincial Health Officer in British Columbia and as deputy provincial health officer.

He attains an M.D. from the University of Calgary, an Aboriginal Family Practice residency at St Paul’s Hospital/UBC (as chief resident), and a master of public health from Johns Hopkins University. He also has multiple honorary doctorates from other universities.

Since 2016, Adams has been the vice president of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada and was previously the president from 2005 to 2006.

He has received numerous awards for his leadership in healthcare, including the U of C Faculty Of Medicine Alumni Award, Indspire Award for Health and the CFPC TD Insurance Spotlight on Achievement Award.

He has led or participated in numerous committees and working groups. For over 15 years, he has been involved in Indigenous health research including Canadian Institutes of Health Research grants as principal investigator. He has also co-authored academic journal articles and publications.

Ross will serve three consecutive years on the CMA Board of Directors, first as the president-elect, then as the president and as the past president; and at least 200 to 220 days working on CMA activities during their year as president.

The association rotates the presidency alphabetically among provinces and territories, Nunavut being excluded. The next election in 2023 will be voted by CMA members from Manitoba for the 2024–2025 term. 

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ICT anchor Aliyah Chavez contributed to this report.

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