Making a world of difference, one patient at a time
Anne Craig, Communications Officer
After 35 years as a family doctor, it would be understandable if Queen’s University professor Ruth Wilson was starting to wind down her career. But quite the opposite is true.
At the recent world conference of the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), Dr. Wilson was named the president of the organization’s North American region. The position marks the highest level of achievement for Dr. Wilson, whose resumé is bursting with honours, awards and nominations.
“My role as president is to help promote better health care in the world,” says Dr. Wilson. “Canada has a lot to offer in terms of primary health care and family medicine and we can share our expertise and resources with countries that are still improving their health care systems.”
Dr. Wilson’s election comes after she was recognized in 2010 as one of Canada’s top 100 most powerful women by the Women’s Executive Network. She also won the triennial Five Star Doctor Award from WONCA for excellence as a health care provider.
It took some time for Dr. Wilson to find her calling – her parents were clergy in the United Church. Despite her strong background in the church, she determined studying medicine was her calling. Her first jobs included working in the northern communities of British Columbia and Newfoundland before being recruited to Queen’s in 1989 to head the Queen’s Moose Factory program. Now called the Queen’s Weeneebayko Program the initiative provides opportunities for Queen’s medical students to work in Northern Ontario as part of their training.
In 1991, at the age of 39, Dr. Wilson became the head of the Department of Family Medicine and spent 10 years in that role. After conquering that professional goal, she began looking for new challenges and found it on the policy side of medicine. She served from 2001-2004 as the Chair of the Ontario Family Health Network.
“I changed my focus at that point as we were facing a 10 per cent cut in medical school enrollment which hit family medicine the hardest. There was a definite lack of doctors. Colleagues and I developed a nine point plan to reform public health care, which led to the implementation of the family health team model currently in use in Ontario.”
While continuing her practice and teaching at Queen’s, Dr. Wilson again was looking for her next challenge. She accepted a part time job at Providence Care as the vice-president, Medical and Academic Affairs. Again she is focused on policies and procedures to make patients’ experience in the health care system more positive.
During her impressive career, Dr. Wilson found time to raise five children with doctor husband and fellow Queen’s professor Ian Casson right by her side – actually right in the same office. Drs. Wilson and Casson share a practice, which allowed them to be there for their children as they grew up. She says she loves the opportunity to work with him every day and talk about their shared passion – medicine.
With so many years of experience under her belt, Dr. Wilson has sage advice for new students: “First you need to be a really good doctor and over the years, your other skills will develop. Second, say yes to things, there are going to be lots of great opportunities presented to you. Embrace them.”
For more information about Dr. Wilson’s election as president of WONCA’s North American region award visit the WONCA website.