National Physicians’ Day 2020 – Dr. Jean Maskey

To pay tribute to the many dedicated physicians practicing at Island Health and in honour of National Physicians’ Day, we are profiling some of the doctors leading innovations and delivering high quality service to show the human behind the profession.

Dr. Jean Maskey practices Hospitalist Medicine in the South Island.

  • Why did you chose medicine and your speciality/field?

As far back as I can recall, with a Family Doctor who visited me when I was ill as a child, on house calls (!), I wanted to become a physician. As I matured, this seemed like the ideal career for me- combining science with a humanitarian aspect. Family Medicine was my career choice as I am, by nature, a generalist, attracted to the continuously intellectually challenging and changing expertise that family medicine requires, combined with the flexibility, portability, as well as the continuity of relationships with patients, their families as well as other health care team members.

  • Is there something that is unique in your life experience that few people know about?

I took a year off during medical school at Dalhousie University between my second and third years, and went to volunteer at a Mobile Health Project in rural Rajasthan in India. This was a very poor region, afflicted by drought. I worked with a Canadian woman who, along with her Indian husband (both with PhD’s in Adult Education), had lived and worked with the local village men for the past decade, offering literacy skills linked with irrigation development. She invited me to join in her project, which was to offer literacy skills to the women of the area, linking this with teaching about improved birth practices to help reduce neonatal tetanus. I did this for several months while awaiting the arrival of the Indian Doctor who was required to lead the Mobile Health Clinic.

When the Mobile Health Clinic began to function once again, it was very short lived, as the physician had no commitment to the community or continuity of care, and soon went on holiday and then quit. I recognised the hole that this left and the sense of abandonment for the village people, who could not trust or rely on this service. The concept of Family Medicine, even now, in many countries, is not integral to the healthcare system. I realised then, and this has been confirmed over my years in practice, how valuable Family Physicians’ generalist skills and continuity of care are, as a resource to the health of individuals and the communities in which they practice. This confirmed my career direction.

  • What is most meaningful to you about your work in medicine?

Patient centeredness, relationships forged through advocacy and team work to improve care and help both patients and “the system” of healthcare in which I have practiced. The daily contact and relationships with individual patients, where I can apply my skills and knowledge to help them in some way sustains me personally.

  • What are your professional interests and notable achievements?

I have practiced full-service Family Medicine and Obstetrics from coast to coast. I was involved for many years with the College of Family Physicians of Canada as the National Chair of the Self Learning suite (developing quarterly CME publications with input from physicians across Canada), as well as on the National examination Committee, participating both as an examiner and with the development of Simulated Office Oral tools as we were developing the residency program and Northern Ontario Medical School in Thunder Bay.

Since coming to Victoria 14 years ago, I have worked exclusively as a Hospitalist. I was the Site Chief of the Hospitalist program for both VGH and RJH, and was part of the Executive Committee of the Canadian Society of Hospital Medicine that developed and published the National Core Competencies in Hospital Medicine in 2015.

Over the past 5 years, I have taken approximately a dozen leadership courses with the Physician Leadership Institute. Applying these skills locally in recent years, I was the lead Hospitalist involved in developing and writing the Hospitalist VESTED “relational” contract, which is a unique contract based on trust and strong relationships between physicians and administration. This Nobel Prize winning concept has been used around the world in other businesses, but we are the first professional (physician) group to utilise this format. This has fostered a transformational change in our practice as Hospitalists, as well as our relationships throughout the hospital and with Administration.

I was recognised for this work as a Physician Leader 1 year ago along with 17 other physicians from across Canada, with the title of “CCPE”, which is the “Canadian Certified Physician Executive” designation.

  • Who or what do you turn to for inspiration?

I have a “Personal Board of Directors” of key mentors (medical and non-medical) who I can turn to for advice or guidance, or reflect on how they would manage challenging situations.

  • Where do you go, or what do you do, to recharge your batteries?

I love to walk, swim, and travel both within Canada and internationally: Last year we hiked for 5 days in the mountains of Japan with old friends along an ancient and revered Buddhist pilgrimage path.

On a more daily basis, recharging my batteries always relates to artistic and creative outlets, including baking, designing and developing my own woodland garden, playing music (piano), or creating useful gifts through sewing, knitting, or felting unspun wool.

  • What is the last book or podcast you’ve enjoyed?

I have been into Biographies lately: Ruth Bader Ginsberg by Jane Sherron De Hart, describes an incredible modern pioneer legal woman who has helped push the barriers for what we take as normal regarding fairness and opportunity for women today, in a time of what she describes as “radical social change”. In her nineties, she is still a Supreme Court Justice in the United States. On a similar note, Becoming by Michelle Obama was also inspiring on many levels.

  • What core value have you most relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Dr. Bonnie Henry sums this up perfectly for me: “Be calm, be kind, and be safe”, while reminding us as citizens of B.C. and Canada that we are all a team.

Similarly, in the hospital, my Core Value has been a realisation that we are all vulnerable, but stronger as a team. I am proud that, as Hospitalists working together as a team with all the other various professionals, we could (and did) create space in the hospital in a very short time period, and nimbly developed systems to both keep each other safe and healthy as well as ensure that we could care for ill patients afflicted with this novel virus, and well as all of the other conditions that require patients to be hospitalised. We will all get through this together in this fashion.

  • What is a change you’ve seen to the health system over the last few months that you are eager to see sustained?

Deep commitments and authenticity, developed through the team work described above, especially between medical staff, allied health care and administration, with cooperation and flexibility that has allowed us to discover what we are capable of, together. In my mind, I think of the reduction in hospital patients census from overcapacity to appropriately 60% capacity to accommodate what we imagined would be a surge of COVID afflicted patients. This has shown us all how much better everything works when there is some time and space to care for patients. Now we need to harness these learnings for the future!

  • What do you wish more people knew about practicing medicine?

The delight of constant change and challenge throughout a lifetime career of working in different systems, with constant developments in medical knowledge and approaches. The honour of being involved with caring for so many fascinating and incredible people as our patients.

  • What is your hope for the future of health care in Canada?

That Canadians appreciate and embrace the “jewel” that we have in our national healthcare systems that provides Health Care for all, equitably. Along with this, that we learn that we need to invest generally in improving social determinants such as housing and food security, better systems of care for vulnerable seniors, and strengthen primary healthcare, supporting Family Physicians, who I believe are the cornerstone of our system.