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As the first Indigenous president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), Dr. Alika Lafontaine brings a different perspective and approach to addressing Canada's strained healthcare system — one that centres around empathy, recognizes bias and focuses squarely on the patient.

As a child in school, Alika Lafontaine had trouble reading and speaking. He had a stutter, was enrolled in speech therapy and eventually labelled as ‘broken.’ His parents were told he was likely never to graduate high school. It was a judgment his parents refused to accept.



Guided by his parents and the home school education they provided Alika and his siblings, he obtained his high school diploma by age 15 and was subsequently labelled a ‘genius.’ He pursued medical school, completing his MD at the University of Saskatchewan, followed by a five-year fellowship in anesthesiology.

During his fellowship, Lafontaine entered and won CBC’s “Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister” competition, riding on a platform focused on reconciling the Treaty relationship between Canada’s Indigenous Peoples and Canadians.

In this episode of Chatter That Matters, Dr. Alika Lafontaine chats with Tony Chapman about how he approaches patient care from a position of empathy, which he feels is rooted in his childhood experiences of being looked at as broken and feeling unwanted. He chats about the need to put the patient’s care first; the role bias plays in healthcare, and how the efficiency paradigm of Canada’s system has caused it to become unsustainable over time. He shares his path to becoming the president of the CMA and the relationship-based approach he believes can serve patients, doctors, nurses and the healthcare system equally and effectively.

Dr. Alika Lafontaine says it’s time to change the conversation around healthcare in Canada, and he is leading the way.

Chatter That Matters is hosted by the Marketing Hall of Legends and the Canadian Marketing and PR Hall of Fame Inductee Tony Chapman. Tony wants to counter the storm of negativity and a growing sense of impossibility by sharing true stories of possibility and positivity. Stories of people who make things happen, despite today’s challenging circumstances. In doing so, he hopes their life lessons inspire others to do more and to be more. RBC is the presenting sponsor.

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