About 15 years ago, Dr. Carol Leet saw an ad in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO) magazine, Dialogue, looking for doctors interested in serving on committees. “I wanted to learn more about medical-legal issues, so I applied,” she says. “I was accepted to be part of the Complaints Committee.”
After becoming affiliated with CPSO 15 years ago, Dr. Carol Leet became its president in December 2014. On the same day that she stepped into the position, she also decided to take on a review of its sexual-abuse policies, championing the effort to support the public.
That initial interest has since done wonders for Leet, who today is not only a practicing pediatrician but also president of the CPSO, the body responsible for regulating physicians in the province, which includes licensing and disciplining them, as well as ensuring they are meeting standards of quality care. Both physicians and members of the public appointed by the government serve on college committees. “There are members of the public on all of our committees at the college,” she says. “They have a good perspective of what the public of Ontario expects.”
The Complaints Committee investigates grievances against physicians, whether they come from patients, coroners, or hospitals. Issues can range from professional incompetence and challenging interpersonal relationships to sexual abuse. “We take these complaints very seriously and investigate thoroughly,” Leet says. “We also make funds available for therapy for the victims of sexual abuse.” Most of those funds come from penalties issued to physicians found guilty of abuse. “We’ve been closely reviewing our internal policies and practices lately, to see where we can make improvements,” she adds. “We want to expedite the process and to encourage people to come forward.”
FACTS & FIGURES
Years CPSO has been operating, having been founded in Toronto in 1866
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The college also develops policies on a wide variety of issues. “The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on assisted suicide this year,” Leet says. “By next year, it will not be illegal to assist competent patients in ending their life.” Leet chairs the group working on the CPSO’s end-of-life care policies.
Another priority for the organization is transparency. “We are expanding the amount of information about doctors that is available to patients,” she says. “We want to be even more transparent and inform patients about things like criminal charges and bail conditions against physicians, as well as providing information about other physician actions that could put patients at risk.”
Outside of policy, Leet wishes more female physicians were part of CPSO. “When I do outreach visits to hospitals and medical association meetings to talk about the college, I encourage women physicians to get involved,” she says. According to Leet, a woman’s perspective is important because many of the college’s policies impact women’s health-care services. For example, issues have arisen in such areas as prescriptions for contraceptives. “Our policy on human rights says that if a doctor objects to providing a service based on religion, the doctor has to refer the patient to another physician,” she explains.
“If we’re going to do a good job as a regulator, we may not be the most popular,” Leet continues. “As president, I look at the facts, listen to everyone’s opinion, and then try to lead the council toward the best decision.” While there are always those who disagree with the college’s decisions, Leet doesn’t let that distract her from the job of regulating the profession. With a goal of assessing every physician every 10 years, the college goes into doctors’ offices and checks record keeping, drug storage, and routine care practices. “Most doctors are good and can stand up to the scrutiny,” she says.
While her work as a pediatrician has been fulfilling, it’s her work at CPSO that has shifted her perspective. “I can see that I am making positive changes to the ways doctors provide care to patients in Ontario,” she says. “Working for the college has made me a better doctor. I’ve seen everything that can go wrong, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount.”