May 1 is Doctors’ Day. My thanks go to patients, students and physician colleagues

May 1 marks National Doctors’ Day, intended to appreciate physicians’ ongoing commitment to patients, families and communities. This day allows us to see how socialized medicine in Canada has evolved and how we must all fight for quality health care in a skeptical world. It also pays tribute to Emily Stowe, Canada’s first female physician.

For me, though, Doctors’ Day is about my patients and how we wrangle with their complicated health issues in an underfunded system. It is about my colleagues and how we use duct tape and spit to fix inefficiencies and inequities. It is about my medical students with their high hopes that I cannot afford to crush. So please celebrate this with me:

To my patients: Thank you for your understanding, your patience, your acknowledgement, your stand against hypocrisy, and your willingness to work with your doctor. Thank you for understanding that doctors want you to have fast, efficient, quality care but the system, not your doctor, creates these inefficiencies. Thank you for your patience in accepting the delays in getting tests, getting specialists, getting surgeries and so on. Thank you for acknowledging that the paperwork is killing us all and if we didn’t have so much of it, we could see more patients. Thank you for standing up against the hypocrisy that says health cards pay for health care, when we all have to use our credit cards for services like physiotherapy, medications, blood tests, counselling and vaccines, for example. Thank you for your willingness to work with your doctors to care for you with empathy and patience to the best of their ability in an underfunded, underappreciated and poorly managed system. You deserve better and we will continue to fight for you.

To my colleagues: Thank you for dealing with poor public health policies from ignorant politicians, and ongoing blatant disrespect while being called “heroes.” Thank you for finding ways to provide exceptional patient care in a hallway or a storeroom. Thank you for persevering when you cannot find a hospital job after 12 years of specialized medical training; when your office costs you more than you earn; when you sacrifice your family life for late night calls; when you have to pay higher tax on your lifetime pension savings to manage government deficit spending. Thank you for going above and beyond despite political slurs of being “fat cats” not paying your fair share and not working hard enough. Thank you for your integrity, advocacy and professionalism during these most trying times. I admire you.

To my medical students: Thank you for your ongoing grit, for advocating for better, and for making rational choices. I thank you for being so hopeful about the future of medicine during a time when policymakers and politicians keep talking about a broken system for which they have no solutions. Thank you for investing in your education with crushing debt so you can learn the marvelous art, science, empathy and negotiation of medicine. It hurts me that your future is more challenging than mine was. Thank you for advocating for your patients, for your involvement in Choosing Wisely, for your environmental stewardship and for better policy decisions while decision-makers proselytize. Thank you for choosing the future that makes the most sense for you because, honestly, family medicine is difficult at this time. I’m not sure if family medicine will survive but I’m going to fight like heck to make sure it does.

Doctors’ Day is really about all those in medicine and all those that need doctors working together to make our health-care system better for all. We just need politicians and policy makers to step out of the way.

Happy Doctors’ Day everyone!


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  • Darren Cargill says:


    Something something honey,
    Something something vinegar.


  • Mike Fraumeni says:

    Difficult in a publicly funded healthcare system for politicians and policy makers to step out of the way though. The team approach involving all concerned is the better way and this will include healthcare professionals working alongside politicians and policy makers, as I say in a publicly funded system. Private healthcare, well that’s a different kettle of fish.


Alykhan Abdulla


Dr. Alykhan Abdulla is a comprehensive family doctor working in Manotick, Ont., Board Director of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and Director for Longitudinal Leadership Curriculum at the University of Ottawa Undergraduate Medical Education.

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