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18th - Jun

Regina family physician Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz elected SMA president (news release)

Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz, a family physician from Regina, was elected president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) on Thursday, June 18, during the first virtual 2020 Spring Representative Assembly (RA).

Dr. Konstantynowicz becomes the 54th president of the SMA. She succeeds Dr. Allan Woo, a Saskatoon orthopaedic surgeon.

“The challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic on physicians and the health-care system will be the main priority during my one-year term,” she said. “My goal is to provide strong leadership and support throughout the pandemic. I intend to focus on the lessons we can learn as a result of the changing health-care landscape. COVID-19 presents an opportunity for our health-care system to develop, innovate and be successful in new ways.

“This virus has had a way of changing our whole world,” she added. “It has been especially difficult for those of us who have lost loved ones.”

Besides the pandemic, other issues that will carry over from Dr. Woo’s 2019-20 term include developing practitioner bylaws with the Saskatchewan Health Authority – rules that will govern workplace practices for many physicians – and negotiating a new contract with the province. The Medical Compensation Review Committee agreement expired on March 31, 2017.

In addition, addressing racism within the medical community will be an issue during her term, Dr. Konstantynowicz noted.

“Recent tragedies have highlighted the urgent need to dismantle systemic racism.  We have seen the protests around the world. We know this issue exists in our country and our province. The medical profession is not immune to bias and discrimination and we must all do our part to address these problems,” she said.

“We have members who are the targets of racism, and others who perhaps are unaware of their prejudice. The SMA board is committed to action on these issues. I should add that racism is a health problem -- and it is incumbent on us as physicians to be part of the solution.”

Born and raised in Regina, Dr. Konstantynowicz has a BSc from the University of Regina and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine in 1981 – the first class in Canada to have 50 per cent women graduates.  She completed a family medicine residency in Regina and started her career as an emergency room physician and ACLS instructor.

She did locum work in rural Saskatchewan – in Lampman, Estevan and Melfort - and worked in academic family medicine in Alberta for a short period of time. But she missed family medicine and opened a full practice in Regina. She taught courses in family medicine, following a year of study at Western University under Canada’s first Chair in Family Medicine.

In the last 15 years or so, her work in Regina involved “making a day in the life of a doctor better,” she said. “I wanted to optimize the work of a family doctor. If we see an opportunity to improve the system, we need to act on it together. Successes motivate us to do more.”

She was an SMA RA delegate in 2014, and joined the SMA board in 2015. She served on several committees of the SMA in 2017, including Finance, Primary Health Care, Intersectional Council and Electronic Medical Records as well as working on the board of the Section of Family Medicine. She was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the SMA for 2018-19, and Vice-President for 2019-20.

“I never thought I would be invited to sit on the board of the SMA, and was both terrified and thrilled to be able to contribute even more,” she said. “Stepping up as president is an absolute honour.”

Dr. Konstantynowicz is married to Jeff, and has two children attending McMaster University in Hamilton. Alex is pursuing a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, and Jessica just completed her first year of medical school.

The SMA’s spring Representative Assembly usually attracts physician-delegates and observers from across the province to Regina or Saskatoon for two days of meetings, sessions, elections of officers and socializing. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a more streamlined RA was held June 18, with delegates attending and voting on matters via video conferencing.

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