Kingston cardiologist and Queen’s University School of Medicine Vice-Dean Dr. Chris Simpson is taking on a new role with Ontario Health. Simpson has been appointed as Ontario Health’s Executive Vice-President, Medical, effective Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.
“I’ll be the first doctor on the senior leadership team and will be bringing a clinical perspective to the leadership table,” Dr. Simpson said. “I’m looking forward to having a frontline clinician’s input into some of the high-level decisions.”
Throughout his career, Simpson said maintaining his clinical practice has always been important to him. Originally from New Brunswick, he came to Kingston for his medical residency in 1992, and never left.
“I’ve had a very interesting career in both clinical medicine, and doing research and teaching. The best part about all of these jobs is that I’ve been able to work clinically in all of this time. That was really important to me.” he said.
When the Ontario Health opportunity came up, Simpson said he was keen to see they were looking for a practicing doctor, rather than a full-time administrator. “I thought this is a perfect chance to be a part of shaping the healthcare system and still be able to see patients,” he said.
Ontario Health is a new organization — a “superagency,” Simpson said, bringing a number of former government agencies such as Health Quality Ontario and Cancer Care Ontario together.
Reporting to Matthew Anderson, President and CEO at Ontario Health, Simpson will provide medical leadership and clinical expertise to Ontario Health’s Clinical Institutes and Quality Programs Portfolio, as well as more broadly across the organization.
“We’ll be working to try to integrate the healthcare system better, so that there aren’t so many silos. Ultimately, we want to deliver better, solid healthcare to every Ontarian,” he said.
His role will allow him to help define, develop and evaluate programs and models of care, and advise Anderson on current and emerging medical issues. He will also co-lead Ontario Health’s Clinical Advisory Committee.
He said that he personally feels quite strongly about elderly care, a cause he championed as President of the Canadian Medical Association.
“I feel very strongly that seniors’ care is an area where we really need to focus. I think if we can do a better job looking after our seniors, that will go a long way to improving the healthcare system,” he said.
Access to care in general, he said, is another area of concern. “Wait times — that’s a perennial problem in Canada, isn’t it? People waiting for cancer surgery, heart surgery and other procedures. Waiting to see specialists, waiting for tests. This is a long-standing interest of mine as well.”
Simpson said he thinks the provincial government’s recent announcement about the creation of Ontario Health Teams is a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s a great initiative because it’s getting all these organizations working together — primary care, home care agencies and hospitals,” he explained. “The way a typical patient goes through the system now — they’ll be in one of those silos… During the transition from silo to silo, sometimes the ball gets dropped. There’s excellence within each one, but no patient has an experience in just one system anymore. They need all these pieces to create healthcare.
“I think the Ontario Health teams are an effort to formally bring all of these systems together to perhaps one day be truly integrated with one budget, one workforce. That’s kind of the vision.”
Simpson said he does think that eventually in his role, he will have some oversight or guidance to provide to the teams. “I think they need to have enough autonomy to be creative,” he said. “Oversight is good, but you don’t want to squelch local solutions that make sense for that location.”
In taking his new role, Simpson will step down as Vice-Dean, (Clinical) at Queen’s School of Medicine and Medical Director of the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization (SEAMO). He will remain a part of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) community as a faculty member in the Department of Medicine, and cardiologist at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC).
“While Chris will leave big shoes to fill at FHS, this is a well-deserved honour that positions him as a key player in the healthcare system. I am extremely proud to see him take on this provincial leadership role,” said Dr. Jane Philpott, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s. “I wish him all the best in this new position with Ontario Health.”
Dr. Stephen Vanner, currently the Director of Clinical Research KHSC and FHS, will step into the roles of Interim Vice-Dean (Clinical), School of Medicine and Interim Medical Director, SEAMO on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Queen’s said a formal search process for an appointment to these roles will start in the spring.