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The 150-Year-Old Show Shakeup

How 2018 Changemaker Melinda Lauzon strategically redesigned the Canadian Medical Association’s General Council to expand reach and influence while becoming more inclusive.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Melinda Lauzon
Director, General Council and
Annual General Meeting

Canadian Medical Association

For strategically redesigning CMA’s annual forum with the goal of advancing healthcare in Canada

Making Change
The CMA’s flagship event, General Council, has been our annual policy-setting forum for the past 150 years—yes, 150. We realized we needed to move away from a “representative type of assembly” that primarily focused on debate to a new forum that would expand our reach and influence. We also wanted to be more inclusive so that we could continue to tackle the most strategic issues of the day, nurture the leadership role of physicians, and be a powerful driver to advance healthcare in Canada.  

In 2016, we formed a task force to re-evaluate General Council. Their goal was to propose alternatives that would allow us to “engage innovatively and inclusively in courageous and influential dialogue to advance health in Canada.” This purpose statement, developed by our board of directors, strongly resonated with our members. In fact, it resonated so well that it became one of the strategic objectives in our new 2020 strategy.   

This August, the CMA will culminate its General Council meeting and introduce its Health Summit, which will bring together thought leaders from various sectors to break down barriers to innovation and technological advancements in health. Everyone at the CMA is excited and working hard to make it all happen!   

What’s Next
Our Annual General Meeting needs to be reimagined for the spring of 2019 to fit within our greater engagement strategy. There are some interesting options to consider. We do know we want a forum that’s open to all members (virtually and in-person), as well as one that builds members’ trust and confidence in the CMA’s priorities and stewardship. We also want to use our resources prudently, be efficient with our time, and be forward-looking.  

Managing Change
Thank you for asking about my favorite topic!

  • When embarking on large-scale change, be prepared to go in directions you didn’t expect.  
  • Make sure you follow your problem to the root cause so you aren’t making changes that only address the symptoms—not to mention wasting precious time and energy!  
  • Expect that there will be complexity, but also know it’s just a hurdle. Once you face it head on, simplicity is just around the corner waiting for you.  
  • Follow your instinct—it’s there for a reason.

Best Business Advice
“Just do the right thing. Focus on the members and the numbers will follow.” Our former COO, Bob Brown, shared this advice with me many moons ago and it has stuck with me. Bob’s words eased the stress of worrying about targets and gave me the focus and confidence to make the choices that had the most impact. Of course, like any good business advice, it applies to the personal side as well—“Focus on the people and the outcomes will be positive.”  

Got an Hour to Spare?
You’ll find me on my ATV exploring uncharted territory. I love the thrill and challenge of not knowing what terrain lies ahead—a muddy hole (actually the muddier the better!), a bumpy forest trail, a rolling creek, or an open field. Some of the best views I’ve seen were unexpected, on top of a hillside in the middle of nowhere. I love knowing that I’m probably the first person to be standing where I’m standing, seeing the view that I’m seeing. I guess I have a little Gretchen Wilson in me. Hee Haw and Hell Yeah!   




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