President's Message

Guillaume Charbonneau, MD, CCFP, FCFP

Collaboration and the role of the family physician

It has been three months since I began my term as President of the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC). Time has passed quickly. It has been interesting to participate in so many different meetings that aim to advance our specialty and work toward improving access to care and the quality of care available to everyone in Canada.

In December I had the opportunity to participate in the Collège des médecins du Québec (CMQ)’s annual day of reflection.

The first item for discussion was professionalism. Unfortunately, the behaviour of a minority of practitioners sometimes does not reflect the high standards of our profession. It is important not to accept such behaviour and to self-regulate to avoid tarnishing the image of physicians as a whole.

We then discussed the CMQ’s position statement on the role of the family physician. It is interesting to note that its direction is in line with the work of the CFPC.

The statement reiterates the importance of family physician expertise within primary care settings. Family physicians are described as providing integrative leadership and compared to conductors in an orchestra. It mentions that the value of family medicine must be supported by concrete actions. The report accurately describes the challenges of primary care and the importance of pursuing greater funding. The contributions of secondary care family physicians are perceived as an added value.

The CFPC’s Family Medicine Professional Profile seeks to better define the role of the family physician. It emphasizes the importance of ensuring Canadians have access to strong primary care options while also benefiting from the added value that family physicians working in secondary care or those with enhanced skills provide.

Similar to the CFPC’s vision for family practice outlined in the Patient’s Medical Home model, the CMQ report talks about the importance and value of working within interdisciplinary teams.

Within my own practice, I have noticed how having a family physician work with other health care professionals benefits patients. I also understand the extent of the work required to keep a collaborative team functioning at an optimal level. Unfortunately, certain politicians and health care administrators confuse collaboration with replacement, and my experience on the ground has taught me that this is not an advantage to our patients. Therefore, it is important for us to lobby the government when these types of misunderstandings occur or when we hear of family physicians being undervalued, as we have done recently.

Finally, organizations can certainly write very good reports, but what matters most is what we do on the ground every day as family physicians. I therefore encourage all of you to continue acting in a professional manner and working in collaboration with other health care professionals to improve access to care and the quality of primary care in your communities.


Guillaume Charbonneau, MD, CCFP, FCFP

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