Categories > President’s Messages

Message from the President

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This month, as we honor our award winners, I am reminded of the hard work and dedication of so many around the province in delivering care to our patients every day. Our awards recognize that family physicians, both experienced and newer in practice, have so much to contribute to enhancing primary care delivery in our province.

The ACFP’s Outstanding Family Practice award winners remind us that it takes a team to practice medicine and exemplify how working as a team with a common goal of improving the care our patients receive make a difference in our communities. We also acknowledge those who have committed time to helping the ACFP further our role of influencing and improving the delivery of primary care throughout Alberta. It is important to recognize that improving the well-being of Albertans takes the efforts of not just our past and present honorees but every one of us putting forth our expertise and compassion to ensure Albertans get the care they need.

Earlier this month, we hosted another successful PEIP conference. Over 600 attendees, who took part in person and remotely by Webcast, experienced two days of stimulating learning that they can carry forward to their colleagues and practices throughout the province, and the country. Congratulations to the Planning Committee and Staff.

I would like to remind you to save the date for the ACFP’s Family Medicine Summit (formerly known as Annual Scientific Assembly) being held in Banff on March 1-3, 2019. This popular conference is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with colleagues, representatives from the College. Join us and experience three days of excellent learning opportunities and to celebrate excellence in family practice. The planning committee is working hard finalizing a program that will be relevant to your practice and provide an opportunity to ‘connect, learn and celebrate’. Registration for the Summit opens in mid-November!

Please contact me any time at

Vishal Bhella, MD, CCFP
Alberta College of Family Physicians

Message From the President—Building Community

Read the full summer eNews.

Dear Members,

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

As we all settle in to our regular ‘back to school’ schedules, I’m reminded why I became involved with our College. I was early in my career, and relatively new to Alberta. The ACFP, being the provincial chapter of the College of Family Physicians of Canada represents our community of family physicians and being involved with the ACFP was a way to connect with my colleagues and contribute to the impact our discipline of Family Medicine can have on the delivery of health care in our province.

We are a member organization not distracted by regulatory activity or negotiations, but one that focuses on education and excellence in family practice. No matter what uncertainties or challenges are presented, the ACFP can be counted on to stay the course and will remain true to its mandate.

I look forward to my next few years as President of the ACFP and hope you can trust that the Board and I are here to better serve your needs and support your ability to deliver the best possible care to our patients throughout the province. Please contact me any time at

Dr. Vishal Bhella, President

Message from the Executive Director—What’s Happening at ACFP?

Read the full summer eNews.

The staff at the ACFP are working hard to prepare programs and services for you, our members. As always, we strive to ensure that the family physician voice is part of ongoing system improvements.

I am most excited about three things currently on our minds and desks:

PEIP—Get Together and Learn
The upcoming Practical Evidence for Informed Practice Conference has launched early bird registration. Our ACFP staff and the PEER team have been working closely with the scientific planning committee to put together an amazing conference that you can join in person or by live webcast. I would especially like to thank Sharon Nickel for her coordination of a crazy bunch of docs who love to teach and challenge conventional thinking.

Our New Website is Under Reconstruction
We are redesigning our ACFP website to be better than ever! Several of our committee members have agreed to work with us to make sure that it meets member needs, is easy to navigate, and points to internal and external resources that you need in your practice and profession everyday. We are excited about using new technology and a creating a best practice resource page.

Leading the Crisis Response
The Primary Health Care Opioid Response Initiative is being lead by a secretariat housed within the ACFP office. Our small-but-mighty office is managing the coordinated response between the Alberta Medical Association, Alberta Health Services (Addiction and Mental Health; Primary Health Care), Alberta Health, the PEER Team, and the ACFP. This is a challenging and inspiring area of work for us and we are very pleased with the collaboration and collective work that we have done and that lies ahead.

I am honoured to serve as your Executive Director and, with the support of an amazing staff team and Board of Directors, we have been able to accomplish so much and will continue to do so into the future. I will strive to provide a regular update on activities at the ACFP office and invite you to connect and provide feedback or ideas on how we can serve you better.

Call me anytime at 780-488-2395 or email me at

Responding to the Opioid Crisis in Your Practice


Read the full June eNews and President’s Message.

Patients at risk of opioid dependency are in your practice. Let me repeat this. Patients at risk of opioid dependency are in your practice. The good news is that we can manage those risks through basic chronic disease management approaches.

The reality is that we will have patients that require pharmacological interventions for their acute or chronic pain. It’s also likely that we’ll have patients that are using substances recreationally or due to substance use disorder, and that may put them at risk of mortality.

In primary care—as generalist providers of comprehensive and, often, complex care—we need to look to simple practice change and new partnerships to make huge impacts for our patients.

  1. Start with a conversation. We have trusted, long-term relationships with our patients and if we open the door to allow open and honest dialogue about where they are struggling, it can be the first steps into the prevention and management processes. It may, perhaps, be similar in nature to discussing smoking cessation with your patients where highlighting the benefits of quitting (rather than the dangers of continuing) is the most effective way to a solution that works for them.
  2. Partner with others in your clinic and community to create your care teams. It may take some time to build the relationships, education, and experience to create a functional care team that works but it will pay off in spades. Consider building “integrated care partnerships” with your patients and others in your community (even if you have to look to AHS or PCN resources outside of your practice) that have the needed expertise. That’s what they are there for.
  3. Build your capacity as a team. There are, and will continue to be many, opportunities in the coming years to build capacity in opioid management, including harm reduction, diagnosis, and treatment (such as opioid replacement therapy and prevention). Look for sessions—conferences, workshops, or online—that you and your team can participate in to gain skills and best practices.
  4. Bring in facilitators to help redesign your practice. Health care, including family medicine, is changing and we need to become increasingly agile to adapt to the changes, but you don’t have to do it alone. Your PCN and the AMA have an army of practice facilitators and change agents that are well-equipped to support your clinic in a rethink/redesign process.

Here at the ACFP, we are working with our partners—PEER, AMA, PCN Zone Committees, AHS (Provincial, Zone, and Community Programs), and Alberta Health—on the Primary Health Care Response to the Opioid Crisis. We want to make sure that we are providing the supports and resources that you need and are looking to you to let us know where your challenges are, where you’ve been successful in your own practice in responding to the crisis, and what we can do to help.

Call or email Terri Potter, our Executive Director, any time.


Challenging Work Pays Off


Read the full May eNews and President’s Message.

Becoming a family physician is an incredible commitment and is not for the faint of heart, mind, or body. As you all know, the specialty of family medicine is about building long-term trusted relationships; it is about complexity, comprehensiveness, and problem solving.

We are asked to balance social, emotional, physical, and mental wellness for our patients and their families. Many of us are small business owners concerned with hiring staff and providers to our clinic teams, making payroll, renewing or establishing new lease agreements, replacing aging equipment, and creating excellent customer experience. It’s a heck of a slog but just as rewarding.

I want to take a moment to congratulate the approximately 150 family medicine resident graduates in Alberta that have committed to their careers in this challenging and rewarding profession. The new Family Medicine Professional Profile just released by the CFPC describes what a family medicine resident can contribute to at the end of their education and training.

If you are a graduating resident, Congratulations!! You have made it and we can’t wait to work with you.

If you have supported any of the new residents graduating in 2018, Thank You! for your contributions as preceptors and mentors during their education and orientation to Alberta’s health care system.

The future is bright—primary care is emerging as the foundation high functioning health systems. Our new grads will be a part of a movement toward new models of care, more fluid patient pathways, payment models that support complexity and comprehensive care, and a movement where communities, patients, and providers are partners in designing and deciding what is needed for better population health. I share in this excitement with you and for you as you contribute, evolve, and affect change during your careers.

Have fun, get involved, and stay connected to the Alberta College of Family Physicians (ACFP)—your community of peers and mentors, your professional and academic home.


Patient’s Medical Home and Future Practice in Canada


Read the full April eNews and President’s Message.

The Patient’s Medical Home is the future of family practice in Canada. In this vision, every family practice across Canada offers the medical care that Canadians want: Seamless care that is centred on individual patients’ needs within their community, throughout every stage of life, and integrated with other health services.

Having this clear, compelling vision for the future of family practice is the first step in making it happen. Can you see this for your practice? Does it exist for your patients? Are you leading your practice and peers to make it a reality? The implementation of the Patient’s Medical Home in Alberta is well on its way. We are doing a lot of things right, but we need to continue on this trajectory to ensure the continued provision of quality care. Since I like to keep things simple, I suggest two key areas that I think we as family physicians need to focus on in Alberta right now:

Focus on Your Contribution to Seamless Care
In our practices, family physicians and their teams are working together to provide a system of front-line health care that is accessible, high-quality, comprehensive, and continuous. We take responsibility for the overarching and proactive medical care of patients, ensuring follow-up and facilitating transitions of care and/or referrals when required. The newly developed Family Medicine Professional Profile describes comprehensive medical care for all people, ages, life stages, and presentations. This care includes all clinical domains, both acute and chronic, and all stages, from preventive to palliative care. Family physicians work across care settings and regulatory environments. Take stock of how you are providing and supporting seamless care for your patients and know that no one else in the health care system can do what you do!

Focus on Your Engagement in Leadership
Are you a leader in your practice? Do others look to you for direction and advice? As family physicians, you are given an amazing opportunity to drive the evolution of your practice. From the most minute things like a coaching conversation with a peer, new team member, or learner, to a meeting to consider investments in new infrastructure or a piece of equipment for your practice, you are stepping up daily to the leadership challenge. There are so many physician leadership development opportunities and a growing community of leaders supporting each other in Alberta. Take a look and take part!

Keep it simple and find focus. What can you do today to advance your practice and more provide moreseamless care for your patients? What can we at the Alberta College of Family Physicians (ACFP) do to help? Keep in touch and let me know if there is anything you need to advance excellence in your practice.


Leadership Is About the “Little Things”


Read the full March eNews and President’s Message.

“It takes team, grit, determination, and perseverance. If you trust in your people, and equally importantly, they trust you, amazing things can happen.” Darby Allen, Former Fire Chief, Fort McMurray, Alberta (Keynote, 63rd Annual Scientific Assembly)

As in emergency response, leadership in family medicine is not for the faint of heart. Primary care is being asked to lead and contribute through changing clinical delivery and practice, taking on more coordination and collaboration roles, reaching out to problem solve, and seek resources to achieve better results.

If you want to gain skills as a leader for your practice, your Primary Care Network, your Zone, or for the province, you will have to seek them out. You will find a great line up of speakers and leaders at ACFP’s second annual LeadFM Conference in Calgary on April 20 and 21, 2018. We hope that you can join us to start your leadership journey or to continue to network and collect leadership tools and resources that will support you and your team in your day to day delivery of family medicine.

But let us not forget, “it is about the little things.” I think what Darby Allen said about leadership also holds true for me. When working with my teams at the University of Alberta, Sylvan Family Health Centre, or the ACFP, I have to be purposeful about my actions to show appreciation for all of the work that everyone does that contributes to the delivery of medical student and resident education, patient care or good governance. I trust my team members to play their role to the best of their abilities and to do what they were trained for.

This year’s 63rd Annual Scientific Assembly was a true success and example of what can be achieved when you have an engaged team of physician leaders. Featuring inspiring and thought-provoking keynotes, like the one delivered by Darby Allen, to workshops focused on using integration and continuity to lead system transformation, our team of committee members and staff came together with grit and determination to deliver what one delegate said was “The best ASA I have ever attended!”

In this way we are all successful and “amazing things can happen.” We all can do our part to show leadership through appreciation. And in building strong leaders and strong teams, we can continue to produce exemplary events—our Annual Scientific Assembly being no exception.


Educating the Heart and Mind


Read the full February eNews and President’s Message.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Aristotle

Though medicine is based on facts and evidence, family medicine is all that and it draws on the heart, emotions, and social constructs of community, team, and family. We learn the technical aspects of medicine from reading, being tested, and attending lectures in medical school. Nonetheless, we really start to solidify what we are taught in medical school when we are given the opportunity to practice what we have learned with our teams, with our patients and their family members in practice.

Residencies, preceptorships, and mentorships throughout our professional careers are so critical. Practising alongside our teachers while we interact with and support patients helps us to develop competency and confidence because that is when the heart becomes engaged! The heart comes to be educated when emotion, caring, compassion and, sometimes, even frustration are present. That is when the learning moves from the mind to the heart.

Think about when you have learned something that changed your heart. Was it something you read, something you learned through trial and error, or something that you worked on together with a mentor or preceptor? Perhaps you heard a clinical story that captured your heart and has resonated throughout many years of practice.

We have access to so many opportunities to learn and engage in continuing professional development and through more formats and environments than ever before. Our goal at the ACFP is to connect different members—with different learning styles—to education that speaks most to them. It is not enough to learn from a book or a classroom setting, we must bring new ideas to life and apply them practically to the work you do, day to day. The designers of your continuing medical education and professional development must facilitate the journey from the mind to the heart.

As we are on the eve of the ACFP’s flagship conference, the Annual Scientific Assembly (ASA), we hope that what you experience there will move your mind and your heart. Let it be a place to meet and connect with old friends and new, to network and learn from people in your field of interest, to get updated on the newest clinical practices and to remember what brought you into family medicine.

Think about what “educating your heart” means to you and those you serve.


Principle Based Leadership

Read the full January eNews and President’s Message.

Machiavelli said “Never waste the opportunity offered by a crisis” … but we ought to ensure we are consistent and fully in-line with our organizational principles!

A crisis shakes us out of complacency and forces us to challenge conventional wisdom so that we can create transformative change. When things get tough and decisions need to be made quickly, having a set of principles to guide you can allow freedom to create solutions and the structure to hold true to what the membership believes.

The Alberta College of Family Physicians is a principle based organization that prides itself in its role to strive for constant improvement and excellence. In the past several years, we have, collectively as family physicians, been challenged to provide leadership for change. As defined in our Strategic Framework 2017-2019, the principles that the ACFP has held up to guide us are:

  1. Professionalism: The ACFP acts with integrity, respect, and inclusiveness, upholding the social responsibility of family medicine.
  2. Continuous Learning and Professional Development: The ACFP supports and inspires self-directed and lifelong learning, quality improvement, research, and continuing professional development for family physicians so that they may adapt to changes in medical evidence, patient, and community needs.
  3. Patient Centred and Integrated Care: The ACFP is comprised of caring family physician leaders, who ensure comprehensive and integrated care and value excellence in health care inspired by personal interactions and trusting relationships in the communities they serve.
  4. Applied Leadership: The ACFP leads and participates in collaborative, practical, evidence-based initiatives with stakeholders to advance excellence in family medicine and the health care system.
  5. The Views and Needs of Our Membership: The ACFP is inclusive and reflective of its members’ views and needs, building awareness of the value of family medicine through responsive and adaptive communication, advocacy, research, engagement, and education.

It may appear mundane and oversimplified but this set of foundational principles has carried us through some difficult times. It is the leadership and Board of Directors of the ACFP who reflect and strive to live these principles whenever they work together on your behalf.

Let us know what you think.

Are we on the right track? I am always happy to hear from you about where you struggle and where you are succeeding in your practice so that we can continue to support and advocate for what you need to serve your patients well.


ACFP’s Top Ten for 2017

Read the full December eNews & President’s Message.

Looking back on 2017,  we invested in advocacy, leadership, and education while supporting you and your teams in the delivery of care for your patients. Here are my thoughts on the ACFP’s Top 10 over the past year:

  1. We established a task force of 12 family physician members that informed the ACFP Opioid Crisis Response and put forward a set of recommendations that was sent to all stakeholders in primary care delivery,
  2. We continue to build on and expand our Family Medicine Leadership Program aimed at providing “Leadership Development for Where You Are,”
  3. Together with the AHS and AMA, we developed a portal to Engage Primary Care physicians in clinical and system level projects. To date, we’ve successfully linked more than 50 family physicians to active projects,
  4. We successfully orchestrated our 62nd Annual Scientific Assembly (ASA) for nearly 400 delegates, highlighting relevant CPD topics, family medicine research, and recognition of excellence, while serving as a gathering of friends and colleagues in a pristine location in the Canadian Rockies,
  5. Our Practical Evidence for Informed Practice (PEIP) Conference hosted over 400 delegates on site, with another 225 joining by webcast, to learn about the best evidence and practice recommendations in over 19 clinical areas,
  6. This December, we published our 200th Tools for Practice article since the inception of our 2009 collaboration with the University of Alberta’s evidence based medicine team—PEER (Patients Experience Evidence Research)—led by Drs. Mike Allan, Mike Kolber, and Tina Korownyk. The ACFP’s Tools for Practice articles are sent to more than 32,000 family physicians and primary care providers in Canada and across the globe,
  7. The ACFP Awards and Recognition program recognized Dr. Donald Chan of Edmonton as the Family Physician of the Year and added a new award category to recognize Outstanding Family Practice Teams that deliver on the principles of the Patient’s Medical Home. Be sure to check out all of our 2017 award recipients,
  8. We worked hard to revitalize and recruit to our governance and operational committees which advise on and support the work of the ACFP. Sincere thanks to our many volunteers for their commitment to the profession—we couldn’t do it without you,
  9. Our Board of Directors has been focused on setting the strategic direction of the ACFP through ongoing deliberations and in-depth discussions, as well as providing oversight and support to the management and staff at the office. Our Board is both vital and well connected to the membership, building relationships at events and using those opportunities to find out what we can do to support you in your practices,
  10. We continue to collaborate with a variety of partners in the delivery and design of the health care system and continue to be known for our high road approach. Learn more about how we work with the other organizations in Alberta by checking out our “Understanding Who’s Who in Alberta’s Health Care” document.

I look forward to another momentous year of progress and potential! Contact me anytime if you have questions, input, or feedback.



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