Founding of the Canadian Association of Physicians with Disabilities
During the period of the late 1980’s to early 1990’s when my vision was slowly deteriorating, I started to ponder about other physicians in Canada who may be dealing with their own disability. This thought fermented in my mind for a few years. A search revealed that there was no demographic data available on the subject of disabilities among physicians. In 1990 I was elected to be the vice president for the Americas (North, Central and South) of an international association, International Rehabilitation Medicine Association (IRMA) this presented an opportunity for me to come in personal contact with a number of physiatrists, same as me, from across the globe. During that time I started making casual enquiries with some of my new friends in IRMA regarding any group or association of physicians with disabilities in their own countries. I found out that there were none.
In 1994 at the World Congress of IRMA held in Washington DC, I was elected on the 3rd and final ballot as IRMA’s Secretary General for a period of four years. While this proved to be a very busy four years, it gave me the chance to make a more formal and systematic enquiry with various members of IRMA on all six continents to determine if there was any structured organization specifically catering to the needs of physicians with disabilities. Once again I found out that there was no such organization in existence anywhere in the world.
Upon completion of my tenure as Secretary General, I made a decision with a commitment to form an organization that would bring Canadian physicians with disabilities together. Either in late 1998 or early 1999 I contacted Dr. Leo Paul Landry, CEO and Secretary General of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and expressed my desire to form an association for physicians with disabilities. Dr. Landry was most supportive of this idea. Indeed, I recall his comments to me that CMA is there help its members in any possible way it can and if and when there is a demonstrated need to form an association of physicians with specific needs then the CMA would be pleased to help out. Dr. Landry, understandably, left the legwork to me but offered to advertise the new association in one of CMA’s newsletters that accompanied CMAJ.
I had already thought of a name ‘ The Canadian Association of Physicians with Disabilities’ which I asked my wife Anita to write on a plain sheet of paper and place in a new file folder. To my recall this probably was in February 1999. After several days and some additional thinking about the type of new association CAPD should be, either open to all disabilities (physical as well mental) or more specific to physical disabilities, I strongly opted in favour of an all inclusive association. At about the same time I took the paper out of the folder and wrote on it, below CAPD, the membership list which included only one name; my own! After the article had appeared in CMA’s newsletter, I had a telephone enquiry from a young female physician in Toronto who along with her husband wanted to join the association. Their names were promptly added to the membership list. A few days later I received a touching e-mail from Nicholas Walker whom I telephoned that evening and had a wonderful chat with him. In the ensuing few weeks and months the membership of CAPD progressively increased to the degree that at the time of its inaugural meeting we were twenty six members strong.
The Inauguration of CAPD
Having attended the 1999 Annual Meeting of CMA at the invitation of Dr. Landry, I decided to have CAPD’s inaugural meeting in conjunction with the CMA in 2000. Thus, the founding meeting of CAPD was held on Sunday, 13 August 2000 in the Cypress Room of the Bessborough Hotel, CMA’s venue, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Prior to this meeting I had sent notices to all of our then membership and had also canvassed by telephone to see if they would be willing to take up one of the positions of the President, Vice President or the Secretary. The response was always the same, that they all felt that as the founder I should serve as CAPD’s first President. In compliance with the wishes of the membership and also by election I was duly nominated and elected as the President of CAPD at its founding meeting. Ulla Nielsen was elected as the Vice President and Nicholas Walker as the Secretary. At that meeting I was empowered to form a Board of Directors and was also given the authority to name the Chairs and Members of the standing committees. The standing committees were the membership committee, chaired by Anne Mildon, the finance committee, chaired by Nick Walker and the nominating committee, chaired by me. I had also proposed five membership regions across Canada with one member representing each of these regions on the Board of Directors. I managed to fill the complements of the Board as well as the Standing Committees fairly quickly thanks to the initial enthusiasm of our members.
Affiliation with the Canadian Medical Association
Soon after the founding of CAPD, I once again contacted CMA to determine how we could work closely with our parent body, the CMA. I was advised that CAPD was eligible to become formally affiliated with the CMA. In the early part of 2001, I made a formal application on behalf of CAPD to become an affiliated society of CMA. In response to my application CMA requested that I supply to them (a) a membership list and (b) CAPD’s constitution and by-laws. The membership list was necessary for CMA to ensure that the majority of our members were also members of CMA as per the requirements stipulated in their by-laws. We easily met this requirement. However, CAPD did not have any constitution or by-laws. I decided to take up the challenge of writing our own constitution and by-laws which was done with the help of CMA’s membership division and also with assistance from Anita. At CAPD’s first biennial meeting, held in Toronto, Ontario on 11 May 2002, our constitution and by-laws were unanimously approved by the seventeen members in attendance. We established a membership fee structure and also adopted CAPD’s mission statement. At the time of this meeting CAPD had forty eight active members, with members in each and every province of Canada. The day before the meeting enquiries were received from three more physicians, two of whom subsequently joined the association.
At its AGM held in Saint John, New Brunswick in 2002 the General Council of CMA unanimously approved CAPD’s application to become an affiliated society of the Canadian Medical Association.
-Dr. Ashok Muzumdar