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Sandy Zidaric is the executive vice-president of people and culture at the Ontario Medical Association.Provided

Over a 34-year career with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), Sandy Zidaric has never had to wonder about her purpose for coming to work each day.

“What draws us all here is the opportunity to make a difference,” says Zidaric, executive vice-president, people and culture, for the OMA, which advocates for the interests and well-being of more than 40,000 member physicians. “We take great pride in supporting our physicians and the work they do across our health-care system.”

Zidaric says the OMA workplace is very much rooted in the organization’s core values of being respectful, innovative, bold, responsive and transparent.

Those values are top-of-mind when it comes to employee recruitment and retention.

“We look for people who are respectful and solutions-focused, value collaboration and understand the importance of bringing a diversity of voices and experiences to the table,” says Zidaric. “Above all, we look for people who are really committed to the OMA’s core purpose of making a positive impact on health care by supporting our members.”

The OMA’s values also inform its staff recognition efforts. “We want to catch ourselves living our values,” says Zidaric. “This really helps reinforce what matters in the organization and how people behave.”

A key priority for the OMA is encouraging equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) across its work force. A multi-pronged strategy launched in 2022 includes a focus on providing learning tools and training to promote employee awareness about EDI as well as establishing the metrics needed to ensure the OMA makes continual progress toward becoming a more equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace.

Promoting EDI is another way of better serving Ontario physicians, says Zidaric.

“Our members are also diverse and work in a health system that’s impacted by issues of equity. By having this perspective, we’re able to improve the quality of work we do for our members.”

The OMA also offers employees a wide range of other learning and career growth opportunities, which it is constantly refining to be made more transparent and accessible.

The OMA’s critical role in supporting physicians was why Nikhil Agarwal joined the organization three years ago, at the height of the pandemic.

“It’s been clear for a long time that our doctors were facing tremendous pressures,” says Agarwal, senior director, business & market development, strategic affairs. “But if our health-care system was in jeopardy before the pandemic, then COVID-19 just put it in a blender and hit ‘purify.’ Health inequities, lack of access and so many other challenges were just laid bare.”

Agarwal says the OMA is working on several fronts to try to relieve some of the pressures on physicians. That includes efforts to reduce administrative paperwork and promote more integrated, team-based models for delivering care.

“We are also looking at ways to facilitate basic recruitment,” he says. “Ontario’s population is growing exponentially and continues to age. We need more doctors.”

The OMA is also keenly aware that some physicians are at risk of burnout and have helped create confidential clinical care services doctors can access.

“They are human beings too and they spend every waking hour looking after other people,” notes Agarwal. “But who is looking after them?”

As the father of two young children, Agarwal easily relates to the OMA’s central purpose.

“All of us use and benefit from our health-care system,” he says. “If we can make the lives of doctors better, they can make the lives of everyone else better.”

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