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National award bestowed upon Ed Hobday for lifetime of service to Saskatchewan’s physicians

After almost 50 years, Ed Hobday is still stickhandling his way through contracts and negotiations, and battling in the corners for Saskatchewan’s physicians.

Hobday’s career with the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) reaches a milestone in August when he receives the CMA Owen Adams Award of Honour, the highest award the Canadian Medical Association bestows on an individual who is not a member of the medical profession.

A hockey player in his youth, Hobday has applied the same spirit that keeps him on the ice today for oldtimers’ hockey games to his 49-year career at the SMA. Eager and enthusiastic, Hobday never seems to have a bad day at the office. In fact, he approaches every day as if it’s a privilege to work on behalf of the province’s physicians.

“The reality is I really enjoy what I do, I couldn’t want for a better job,” Hobday told the SMA. “I keep telling people that I have the best job in the world.”

He was “surprised and humbled” upon hearing he was to receive the Owen Adams Award of Honour from the national association. “I had no idea that my name had even been put forward as a candidate for this honour. That people I work with would think of me in that way is quite overwhelming and unexpected.”

Hobday had been an administrative assistant in the department of economics and political science at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) for four years when he saw a job posting for the SMA in 1970. Armed with degrees in economics and administration, he applied.

“I have to fess up that I didn’t really know what the SMA was,” he said. At the time he was playing competitive hockey with the Saskatoon Quakers, and that consumed a lot of his time and energy. He had previously played for the Saskatoon Blades and the U of S Huskies. He joined the Quakers of the Saskatchewan Senior Hockey League in 1969.

While Hobday was lighting up the scoresheets on the ice during the Sixties, major changes were happening to the medical profession. After medicare was introduced in 1962, the fee schedule that had been established by physicians carried over for the next five years. For the first time physicians were now faced with the prospect of negotiating fees with the provincial government. Wanting a fee increase they struck a deal, but in the end felt they may have left too much on the table. They concluded that they were ill-prepared for the complexities of negotiations.

The SMA staff at that time consisted of executive director Dr. Ernie Baergen and three support staff members. The board decided to create a new position. The association was looking for someone to work in statistics and economics, assist in the negotiating of fee schedules, and help out in accounting and bookkeeping.

Hobday was interviewed by Dr. Baergen in Saskatoon, met with the president and honorary treasurer of the day in Regina, and was offered the job. At that time the SMA office was a converted one-and-a-half storey house that sat at the bottom of the University Bridge in Saskatoon. The house was razed for the expansion of the Park Town Hotel.

“That was how I got started. My first meeting was a tariff committee meeting, and I remember it clearly,” Hobday said.

”The thing to keep in mind is we had a small organization and small staff, so I got involved in most everything the SMA was doing. Right off the get-go I went to board meetings and all of the committee meetings. We didn’t have nearly as many committees as we do now, though. We had the finance committee and insurance, tariff and economics and the board and RA.

“I got to go to all of those meetings, and I very quickly had the opportunity to meet a lot of physicians. I just appreciated what fine folks they were and how they accepted me. I always like to say I work for and with docs, and to this day it is still the case. In some instances, I simply execute the decisions they make, and at other times I might be able to give them advice or suggestions as to what they might do, because I can put a different lens on some of these issues.”

Hobday often cites the staff at the SMA for their professionalism and for making work enjoyable.

“I appreciate the variety of the work and look forward to coming to work every day,” he said. “You have a rough idea of what your day might look like when you leave home but it rarely turns out that way because of the business we are in and the types of issues that physicians are seeking advice or help with. The days always go quickly. The other thing, too, is the docs do appreciate what you are attempting to do on their behalf.”

Hobday has also worked on behalf of his community. He appreciates that the SMA has given him flex time to pursue outside interests. He served in municipal politics for 20 years, including 16 years as reeve of the Rural Municipality of Corman Park.  He also served for many years on the board of the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority. At the U of S, he was elected to the senate and during office, sat on the board of governors from 1994 to 1997.

Through it all Hobday and his wife, Colleen, raised a family of four children. He acknowledges that without the support, and in some instances, the sacrifices, that his family has endured, he would not have been able to throw himself into his job the way he has done.  It’s been a busy life, but Hobday isn’t thinking about full retirement at the moment, although in theory he is now working  four days a week. He jokes that he has only had two jobs in his life and wouldn’t know how to apply if he sought a new one, which he won’t.

“I have no interest in any other job in the health-care sector other than the one I have. My health is still good, but I’ve been here a long time and we’ve got a good complement of people here in the SMA office. I tell people you won’t even miss me when I am gone because the organization is in good shape, and if it’s in good shape, it will be able to keep the docs of Saskatchewan in good shape.”


About the CMA Owen Adams Award of Honour

The Owen Adams Award is given to people who have demonstrated excellence in any of the following areas:

  • Personal contributions in medical research, medical education, health-care organization, and public health education;
  • Raising the standards of health-care delivery in Canada;
  • Service to the profession in the field of medical organization; or,
  • Initiatives that have contributed to improvements to the health and wellness of Canadians.

“In conferring this award, the Canadian Medical Association recognizes your career-long dedication to improving health care through your work in the field of medical organization,” the CMA said in a letter to Hobday, in conferring the award.

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