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12th - Sep

CMA bestows leadership honour on Sask. Dr. Paul Dhillon

Dr. Paul Dhillon wears the mantle of leadership somewhat reluctantly. He doesn’t think of himself as a leader, even though the Canadian Medical Association does.

Dr. Dhillon received the CMA Award for Young Leaders (Early Career) at the CMA’s General Council in late August in Quebec City. “A look at Dr. Paul Dhillon’s accomplishments to date makes it difficult to believe he is still in the early stages of his medical career,” the CMA wrote in describing the award.

Dr. Dhillon sees things a bit differently.

“I don't consider myself a leader right now,” he told the SMA.

“I am just really lucky that the work I get to do at so many levels is fun and still doesn't feel like work to me. I wake up and I am excited about the day and when I have an idea I have the drive and energy and ability to implement and execute the ideas.”

Dr. Dhillon credits the opportunity he had to do residency training in Saskatchewan with kick-starting his career. A Victoria, B.C., native, he went to medical school in Ireland and worked there for two years before being accepted into the family medicine program in Regina

“I applied for a number of years to get into residency training programs, and hold the record for not getting into some programs I bet, and those failures keep you humble and make you wake up with a hunger to work harder than the year before.”

Dr. Dhillon has been a locum physician for the past four years, working in rural Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. He is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan and co-founder of The Review Course in Family Medicine, which helps residents and international medical graduates prepare for their certification examination in family medicine.

He edited a book — The Surprising Lives of Small-Town Doctors — with proceeds donated to charity, and is serving as a medical officer in the Canadian Armed Forces with 16 (Regina) Field Ambulance. He has served as the senior medical authority for Ex Arctic Ram and Ex Arctic Bison.

Dr. Dhillon was president of the Professional Association of Internes and Residents of Saskatchewan (now Resident Doctors of Saskatchewan) and was honoured by the College of Family Physicians of Canada with the Murray Stalker Award “as the Canadian family medicine resident most likely to become a future leader in our field.”

He also worked in Sierra Leone with Save the Children during the Ebola crisis.

Dr. Dhillon, who completed his 34th marathon in Quebec City in August (see photo), says it’s time to settle down, but the locum work provided the flexibility to attend courses and assignments for his military work.

“The SMA program was perfect to allow me the ability to do work I love and be able to travel internationally for humanitarian work and also domestic military training,” he said. “I am hoping to get a more permanent emergency medicine job and then balance that with deployments and rural family medicine in the future. My wife would like to settle down as soon as possible and not live out of the Land Rover, so that will force a settling down move soon.

“It's been tough not being in the same place for more than two weeks at most in the last four years, but it's also fun to travel.”

He says the settling down may take him to La Loche, where there is a need for physicians. He continues to work with The Review Course in Medicine and hopes to expand it to more centres across Canada. He is finishing his final course in the military this fall to become a full-fledged general duty medical officer, which could lead to deployment and possibly a brigade surgeon’s role.

Asked for his thoughts on receiving the CMA Award for Young Leaders (Early Career), he said:

“It's fairly epic to be recognized by your peers nationally, especially in the 150th anniversary year (of the CMA). To me it proves that if you are surrounded by great people you can succeed. I had amazing mentors in Saskatchewan in residency, Dr. Kathy Lawrence, Dr. Cheryl Zagozeski, and Dr. Randy Radford especially, who allowed and encouraged me to participate in national leadership organizations and supported my work.

“I met great people during that time and they have continued to be colleagues and support me in my endeavors after residency.”

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