Encouraging Residents to get Involved as Leaders: Advice from a Chief Resident

Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

By: Dr. Aida Owlia, PGY2
Chief Resident, Civic Unit

It is an exciting time of the year! We have just welcomed our new cohort of residents in the last month. Their enthusiasm is contagious and their achievements in their careers thus far are simply humbling. When I was asked to do the orientation welcoming notes and pass on some advice that I wish I had before starting residency, I kept going back to one phrase and that was “get involved”. What did I mean by that? Here is my personal story of why I am so passionate and encouraging of residents to get involved at the departmental level and hospital level, particularly for those who are interested in leadership.

I had the privilege to be a participant in a Residents as Leaders (RALS) program last year as a PGY1. For those of you who are not familiar with the program, it is an essentially a five day course and activities organized by some of the most inspiring leaders in medicine in Ottawa. This program is unique to University of Ottawa and focuses on introducing residents to leadership styles and helps build a skill set to enable them as future leaders. The program has been implemented every year for the past ten years and is open to University of Ottawa residents from all specialties by nomination.

I have always been passionate about leadership but I never knew where to start. RALS in a sense ended up being the “wind beneath my wings”. By the end of the course, I was more inspired than before and felt that I had some basic tools as well as lots of support and encouragement to seek leadership opportunities. As RALS wrapped up, I was motivated to run for chief resident. Currently, as one of the chief residents at the Civic, the skills I learned in the course are my foundational tool kit and I draw on the principles I learned often. Every day, I look forward to building on these skills and learn from others to be able to contribute in a meaningful way. I am, and forever will be, aspiring for excellence as a clinician and a leader in my field. The road to that goal is long and bumpy I am sure. However, I am very excited to have started the journey early on in my residency and it will be one that I will continue to work on throughout my career.

In addition to being involved at the department level, I have since joined the TOH chiefs committee to be a part of decisions made at the hospital level and collaborate with the chief residents of all other departments. The experience is humbling as it allows residents to collaborate with senior management of the hospital and to learn from Dr. Kitts himself, and to see a true leader in action at every meeting. The journey has also been educational in ways I did not necessarily anticipate. In today’s world of medicine, collaboration and inter-professionalism are essential in ensuring the best possible health care delivery for our patients. Sitting in the same board room with representatives from all specialities is a unique window into the priorities and limitations of our colleagues’ day to day realities.

Moving forward, I am looking forward to joining the female leadership group at Ottawa this September. As a female physician, I am particularly excited to join Dr. Khoury and her colleagues who have gracefully welcomed me. This will be an amazing opportunity to learn from some of the best female leaders in medicine. I am looking forward to finding role models and mentors and build on my leadership skills further with this unique and exciting group who aims to encourage females in leadership roles in medicine.

So, my advice to you all is again to get involved. Seize the opportunity as a resident to learn from others. If leadership is an area of interest for you, I would say start early and start small and more importantly be courageous to take the first step. You will be able to build on your skills over the months and the years to come. There are plenty of people who can and would love to help. Be enthusiastic in all that you choose to do. The lifelong learning as a clinician is an attitude I most certainly hope to apply to learning about leadership skills. We all have an interesting platform to be leaders and advocates - indifference is not an option, so learn the skills that you need to be effective leaders and advocates in the future, and do it as soon as you can. Lucky for us, we have a university, a department and a hospital that supports us in pursuing these ambitions. If you have any specific questions about my small journey so far my email is aowli057@uottawa.ca and I am happy to help in any way that I can. Good luck in your future endeavors, future leaders!

Dr. Aida Owlia

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