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After a traumatic brain injury, this physician is on a mission to improve inclusion of docs with disabilities

 
Dr. Michael Quon, internal medicine specialist

In 2015, Dr. Michael Quon was on a cycling tour in Colorado to celebrate the end of his residency and the beginning of his new role as a general internal medicine specialist in Montreal. While on this trip, he experienced a devastating crash that left him with a traumatic brain injury. After his rehabilitation, he faced difficulty returning to work as a physician with a disability.

“It was a bit of an eye-opening experience. I learned that there are a lot of physicians out there with similar challenges being accommodated and finding accessible work environments,” recalls Dr. Quon, who now works at The Ottawa Hospital. “So, knowing other people were struggling, it became meaningful for me to work towards improving the system.”

Dr. Quon has become an advocate for improving inclusion of physicians with disabilities. In 2022, he worked with other members of The Ottawa Hospital’s Department of Medicine to develop a pioneering new policy, which would accommodate physicians in the department who are living with disabilities — the first policy of its kind at any academic hospital in Canada.

Caring for our physicians helps them care for our patients

Approved in June 2022, the policy highlights that physicians with disabilities can offer unique insight to The Ottawa Hospital. It states that the Department of Medicine will aim to provide reasonable accommodation to physicians with a documented disability through a barrier-free environment and with supports and services within the limits of available resources. It outlines in detail the process and steps required in the recruitment and provision of reasonable accommodations, involving the Division Head and the Department of Medicine Human Resource Manager.

The policy also applies to physicians who have been absent due to disability and are on a return-to-work plan. Accommodation-related expenses up to a given amount will be covered by the department and division.

Finally, this policy ensures that physician leadership will explore possible ways that a physician can make a meaningful contribution to the department if they are no longer able to practice clinically due to their disability.

Dr. Quon warmly thanks everyone involved in bringing this policy to life, including the policy’s co-lead, Dr. Camille Munro, palliative care physician and former Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the Department of Medicine; Dr. Kathleen Gartke, Senior Medical Officer; Dr. Greg Knoll, Head of the Department of Medicine; and Krista Hind, Director of Human Resources for the Department of Medicine.

Leadership at The Ottawa Hospital and beyond

Dr. Quon’s leadership doesn’t end at this policy. He is also a board member for the Canadian Association of Physicians with Disabilities and led the development of a new community of practice, named Physician Health Inclusion, for physicians and trainees with disabilities and chronic conditions on the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) online platform. He was featured recently in the Royal College “Specialty Matters” podcast.

Physicians with disabilities enrich the learning and clinical environment, increase empathy for patients and can improve care for patients with disabilities, explains Dr. Quon. “There’s no doubt that my injury has made me a better doctor,” he says. “I have a much better awareness of what patients are going through.”

 
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