Social accountability… reflections on privilege

When Dr. Bob Woollard gave a presentation as part of a recent Vancouver Physician Staff Association (VPSA) Unique Lives in Medicine series about his work at the Patan Academy of Health Sciences, he reminded his fellow physicians that we live privileged lives and have a moral obligation to move the world forward in a positive way.

“Being a doctor enhances the role of luck and readiness in life,” he said. “We need to remember that merit is ephemeral and the purpose of life is to be useful. Life is about relationships.”

Dr. Woollard, who is a professor of of Family Practice at UBC’s Department of Medicine, has a special interest in the social accountability of medical schools. He sees VPSA and its mandate to engage physicians as a way to build community.

“The Facility Engagement process is to try and mould and change and facilitate VCH staff to be a society rather than a crowd,” he said.

Dr. Woollard notes that change comes about when there is will both from the leadership and the grassroots. He has seen this happen in Nepal and other developing countries where he has worked on social accountability and the provision of primary care. In his VPSA presentation, he referred to the relationship-building partnership pentagram that embraces all partners simultaneously to build upon existing strengths. Dr. Woollard has seen this approach succeed in building health systems based on people’s needs and believes it also applies to facility engagement.

“It’s important to get everyone in the room,” he said. “VPSA is not in the business of fixing relationships so much as creating opportunities for relationships to develop. We need to develop society and express affection rather than being faceless people as we walk down the hall… It can be daunting when we look at what needs to be done. But you don’t have to have the entire strategic plan in mind; you just have to get started.”

To learn more about the Patan Academy of Health Sciences, watch this YouTube video.

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