Canadian Medical Association

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Canadian Medical Association
Abbreviation CMA
Formation 1867
Type Organizations based in Canada with royal patronage
Legal status active
Purpose advocate and public voice, educator and network
Headquarters Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Region served
more than 80,000 doctors
Official language
English, French
Dr. Chris Simpson
Website CMA

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), is a national, voluntary association of physicians that advocates on behalf of its members and the public for access to high-quality health care, and provides leadership and guidance to physicians. The CMA also takes the lead on public health issues. The CMA's goal is to ensure the survival and robust health of Canada's medicare system in the face of numerous challenges. The CMA is a Canadian civilian organization with the Royal Patronage of Queen Elizabeth II. The Canadian Medical Association Journal, often abbreviated CMAJ, is the CMA's official publication. It is a peer-reviewed general medical journal that publishes original clinical research, commentaries, analyses, and reviews of clinical topics, health news, clinical practice updates, and editorials.


The CMA has over 80,000 members,[1] making it the largest association of medical doctors in Canada. The CMA’s first priority is to address the needs of Canadian physicians from medical school through residency, medical practice, and retirement. CMA members can access a wide range of services and benefits, including but not limited to clinical resources and wealth management .


The Canadian Medical Association was founded in 1867, about 100 days after confederation. The first president was Sir Charles Tupper, who later became Prime Minister of Canada. The foundation of the CMA was strongly rooted in its Scottish origins as the first three presidents of the CMA graduated from the Edinburgh Medical School.

The CMA also played a central role in the creation of the Registered Retirement Savings Plan in 1957.[2] Today, its financial arm, MD Financial Management, administers more than $40 billion for CMA members and their families.

The CMA believes it is possible for Canada to maintain a publicly funded, universal health care system and still eliminate wait times. However, transformational change is needed to refocus the health system to bring about patient-focused care, as well as shared-decision making.[3]

Advocacy and awareness campaigns[edit]

The CMA advocates policies that support a healthy population and a vibrant medical profession. This advocacy is based on submissions to government, developing policies and conducting research. The CMA Code of Ethics, also contributes to advocacy and awareness campaigns by providing ethical guidance to Canada’s physicians. Focus areas include decision-making, consent, privacy, confidentiality, research and physician responsibilities.

Health care transformation in Canada[edit]

Health Care Transformation is the base of all of the CMA's advocacy efforts. It is focused on ensuring all Canadians will have the best health, the best health care for the best value in the world. The CMA and the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) put forward principles to guide the transformation of the health care system in Canada.[4] The CMA and CNA want health care that is sustainable and adequately resourced, so that it can provide universal access to quality, patient-centred care delivered along the full continuum of care in a timely and cost-effective manner. Approximately 130 partners [5] have signed on to the principles so far.

As part of the Health Care Transformation in Canada initiative, the CMA hosted a series of town hall in cities across Canada and online to hear from Canadians. The 2011 series focused on the future of health care system [6] The 2013 dialogue focused on the impact of the social determinants of health such as income, early childhood development, housing and access to healthy food. The 2014 dialogue focused on end-of-life care issues in Canada.

Seniors care[edit]

The CMA wants to make sure seniors health is front and centre in the next federal election. A national seniors strategy could help save Canada’s health care system $2.3 billion a year by providing more high-quality seniors care outside of acute-care hospitals.[7] A national strategy would mean better, more focused services for seniors and help improve access to acute health care services for those who need them.

A Nanos poll in April 2014 showed that almost six in 10 voters in 26 key ridings across Canada would support another party if their current party fails to make seniors a priority.[8] Ninety-five percent of Canadians aged 45 years and over identify the need for a pan-Canadian seniors strategy, according to the CMA’s 14th Annual National Report Card on Health Care.[9]

End-of-life care[edit]

The CMA wants end-of-life care to be the subject of full and frank discussion by Canadians of all ages and walks of life. Over the winter and spring 2014, a total of 11 town hall meetings and a live chat were held across Canada with CMA members and the public. An online dialogue for members was also conducted with more than 1,200 CMA members registering.

The CMA's report End-of-life care: A national dialogue[10] makes a number of conclusions based on the consultations, including:

  • All Canadians should to discuss end-of-life wishes with their families or other loved ones.
  • Advance care directives should be prepared by all Canadians that are appropriate and binding for the jurisdiction where they live.
  • A national palliative care strategy is needed.
  • All Canadians should have access to appropriate palliative care services.
  • More education about palliative care approaches and services and knowledge about advance care directives is required for medical students, residents and practicing physicians.
  • If the law in Canada is changed to allow euthanasia or physician-assisted dying, strict protocols and safeguards are required to protect vulnerable individuals and populations.

Choosing Wisely Canada[edit]

Choosing Wisely Canada is a campaign launched by Dr. Wendy Levinson in partnership with the CMA to help physicians and patients engage in healthy conversations about unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures, and to help physicians and patients make smart and effective choices to ensure high-quality care.[11] Central to the campaign are lists of “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question” developed by more than forty-five Canadian specialty societies . These lists are intended to encourage physicians to adopt a “think twice” attitude to avoid unnecessary and potentially harmful tests and procedures, and to foster discussions between patients and physicians about inappropriate care.[12] The campaign also uses patient-friendly education materials to complement these lists, as well as teaches medical trainees about resource stewardship. As of June 2, 2015, 151 physician recommendations and 26 lay language patient educational materials have been released.[13]

In a report of an external advisory panel on healthcare innovation to the health ministry published in July 2015, experts saluted Choosing Wisely Canada “as an innovative physician-led and patient-centered approach that has the potential to shift healthcare away from a culture of consumption to a focus on appropriateness and quality of care”. Furthermore, the panel urged “governments to support the implementation of [Choosing Wisely Canada] in all jurisdictions and to carefully evaluate its impact”.[14]

Social determinants of health[edit]

The CMA is working to raise the awareness of Canadian physicians, that poverty is a risk to the health of individual patients. It also seeks to provide physicians with practical interventions for their practice.

Innovating for Patients campaign[edit]

In 2012, the CMA launched the Innovating for Patients[15] campaign to highlight physicians across Canada who are innovating to better meet the needs of their patients. The campaign is part a of the CMA’s Health Care Transformation in Canada[16] initiative.

Public health[edit]

The CMA offers expertise in population and public health policy. One of the CMA’s founding principles in 1867 was to “improve public health and prevent disease and disability.” The CMA develops public health policies to:

  • advocate for the health of Canadians
  • protect and promote health
  • prevent illness and disease


The CMA is involved in pharmaceutical issues through policy development, submissions to government, educational initiatives and interactions with health care providers and consumer groups. The CMA says prescription drugs are a vital part of Canadian health care, and that Canadians should have access to medically necessary pharmaceuticals that are:

  • safe and effective
  • available when and where they are needed
  • available at reasonable cost

Wait times and benchmarks[edit]

The CMA continues to work with other national medical organizations to lobby for implementation of wait-time commitments made by the first ministers in 2004 and to have new specialty areas added. The CMA supports the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement and its annual Taming of the Queue[17] conferences. The CMA is also a cofounder of the Wait Time Alliance.[18]

Referrals and consultation[edit]

The CMA is working to improve the referral and consultation process between physicians to facilitate timely access to specialty care. The CMA referral and consultation process toolbox showcases successes and illustrates lessons learned. The tools describe different approaches to addressing challenges related to referrals and consultations. These challenges include improving communications between physicians and coordinating referrals. The toolbox is designed for individual doctors. The toolbox was made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada.

Provincial and territorial medical Associations[edit]

Affiliates, associated societies and observer organizations[edit]

Several national specialty and special-interest physician organizations are affiliated or associated with the CMA. These special relationships respect each organization's autonomy while recognizing the goal of speaking with a common voice for greater issues that affect all physicians.

Through affiliation, association and membership on the Specialist Forum, these organizations can represent their members' interests within the CMA and contribute to the development of physician advocacy and health advocacy policies at the national level.

Corporate structure[edit]

The Board of directors is the executive authority of the CMA. The Board is responsible for managing CMA affairs in accordance with the policies established by the CMA General Council. General Council is the governing body and legislative authority of the CMA. It's responsible for providing high-level policy guidance and direction to the organization in general, and the board of directors in particular. It provides broad policy direction to the CMA via the debate, discussion and passage of motions at General Council.

The CMA's Annual Meeting includes a business session, open to all members, that considers business and matters referred by General Council. The General Council includes scientific and educational sessions designed to promote the medical and related arts.

CMA companies[edit]

Logo of MD Financial Management, a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association

The CMA has two subsidiaries: MD Financial Management and NewCo.

MD Financial Management is a wealth management firm wholly owned by the CMA. MD helps clients build wealth and capitalize on opportunities that ensure they meet their personal and professional goals. MD Financial Management includes MD Financial Management Inc., MD Management Limited, MD Private Trust Company, MD Life Insurance Company and MD Insurance Agency Limited.

NewCo is the temporary name of a new wholly owned CMA subsidiary. It was created on September 1, 2014. This subsidiary delivers information and knowledge products and services. NewCo includes the Canadian Medical Association Journal and PMI physician leadership courses. It also includes clinical tools such as DynaMed, RxTx and POEMs. NewCo also includes Conjoint Accreditation Services, which upholds national standards for the education of health professionals. NewCo is registered to conduct business as 8872147 Canada Inc. It will be formally launched with a permanent name and brand later in 2015.

CMA awards[edit]

Each year the Canadian Medical Association invites nominations for CMA awards. The nomination deadline is November 30. Recipients are notified in March. Awards are presented at the CMA Annual Meeting in late August.

  • Medal of Honour
  • Medal of Service
  • May Cohen Award for Women Mentors
  • Sir Charles Tupper Award for Political Action
  • F.N.G. Starr Award
  • Award for Excellence in Health Promotion
  • Awards for Young Leaders
  • Dr. William Marsden Award in Medical Ethics
  • Physician Misericordia Award
  • John McCrae Memorial Medal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CMA mission and vision". 
  2. ^ "Investment Executive". 
  3. ^ "Health Care Transformation". 
  4. ^ "Principles to Guide Health Care Transformation in Canada" (PDF). 
  5. ^ "Health Care Transformation Partners". 
  6. ^ "CMA 14th Annual National Report Card on Health Care" (PDF). 
  7. ^ "Health Care in Canada". 
  8. ^ "Project Summary-CMA submitted by Nanos, April 2014" (PDF). 
  9. ^ "CMA 14th Annual National Report Card on Health Care" (PDF). 
  10. ^ "End-of-life care: A national dialogue" (PDF). 
  11. ^ Levinson W, Huynh T. Engaging physicians and patients in conversations about unnecessary tests and procedures: Choosing Wisely Canada. CMAJ. 2014 Mar 18;186(5):325-6.
  12. ^ Levinson W, Kallewaard M, Bhatia RS, Wolfson D, Shortt S, Kerr EA; Choosing Wisely International Working Group. 'Choosing Wisely': a growing international campaign. BMJ Qual Saf. 2015 Feb;24(2):167-74
  13. ^ Vogel, L. More Hospitals Choose Wisely.CMAJ June 8, 2015 cmaj.109-5078
  14. ^ "Report of the Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation: "Unleashing Innovation: Excellent Healthcare for Canada"" (PDF). 
  15. ^ "Health Care Transformation - Innovating for Patients". 
  16. ^ "Health Care Transformation". 
  17. ^ "Taming of the Queue 2015". 
  18. ^ "Time to Close the Gap: Report Card on Wait Times in Canada (2014)". 

External links[edit]