In conversation with Dr Ming-Ka Chan


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Hello I’m Domhnall MacAuley and welcome to this BMJLeader conversation. Today I’m speaking to Ming-Ka Chan. Ming-Ka, you’ve had a very interesting career. Tell me about your professional and leadership career.

Ming-Ka: I’ve been a pediatrician since 1999 here on Treaty 1 Territory and homeland of the Red River Métis which is known as Winnipeg, Canada. I do hospital medicine and I also go to the remote parts of Canada – to Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation for outpatient clinics. And, in terms of leadership, I come at leadership from a core purpose of ‘thriving’ – helping others to thrive. I’ve worked in that space in terms of Resident leadership development, as well as in faculty development and, more recently working with other health professional learners in developing some of these leadership capabilities.

DMacA: Before we talk about leadership and your clinical career, tell us a little bit more about the Treaty 1, where you’re working, the Indigenous population, and how it affects your career. 

Ming-Ka: I think learning about the original Peoples, the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, or Turtle Island, and how they’ve been impacted in terms of care, the inequities in care, as well as the societal inequities are important. The treaties were signed but not upheld in Winnipeg. Treaty 1 was the first treaty that was signed with the European settlers in 1871 and there was supposed to be an exchange of land, an annual annuity and material goods, which happened in terms of lands were received but the rest of the treaty agreement was not honoured. Unfortunately, there have been ongoing negative impacts, and not upholding of the treaties across all of Canada. 

There was a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada that was done with recommendations that affect health but also affect the work that we do in education and society. And so, I did take on a role in equity and social justice for my Department of Pediatrics; looking at improving the inequities in care in the child health context has been some of the more recent work that I’ve been doing. I would say that my work in going to the remote parts of Canada in terms of the Indigenous communities to help provide care has been one way of reconciliation – in terms of social accountability and meeting the needs of communities. That means that I travel four times a year for about four working days on each visit to provide pediatric specific care, which is very different, of course, to a more urban setting in other parts of Canada. So, while I think work in reconciliation has been done there’s still a lot more work to be done.

DMacA: Has that fed in any way into your interest in leadership and the development of leadership among clinicians?

Ming-Ka: I think that’s evolved. I mentioned earlier that my goal has always been to help and support others to thrive and I realized that thriving needs to start with belonging. It needs to start with ensuring that there are safe learning and work environments and, in order to have well-being, we need to have those as a precursor – the sense of belonging, feeling welcomed – in order to thrive. I think developing leadership capacity in this context is one strategy to help individuals thrive. I think that it’s important to think about and to apply an anti-oppression lens to all the work that we do, whether it be in leadership development or in other arenas.

DMacA: Tell us about some of the leadership projects you’ve been involved in.

Ming-Ka: Within BMJ Leader – maybe I’ll start there as that’s some of the more recent work;  

I’ve had the privilege to work with Jamiu Busari, who is leading as the commissioning editor. And our first special issue, (topic collection) for BMJ leader was actually in leadership education and social justice.  The first publications should go live shortly and that’s really exciting, with some really wonderful work across the globe. And, of course, we support articles about leadership education and social justice at any time and have had many wonderful pieces published to date in that arena. Some of this work, in collaboration, of course, with the other associate editors, has been looking at how we can apply a social justice lens to the work that is being done as an editor, as a reviewer, and as a journal, and what that could look like.

DMacA: I’ve seen a word associated with your career, and you need to tell me a little bit about it, “Sanokondu”. Have I pronounced it correctly?

Ming-Ka: That’s probably one of the projects that I’ve been involved with longest in the global context. This actually hails back to 2013 when we were first working on the CanMEDS review of 2015.  CanMEDS is the Canadian medical education framework and, in that process we were reviewing the framework. At the time, it was called the “Manager” Role and during that process, we renamed it the “Leader” Role to emphasize the importance of leadership capabilities. During that time, we engaged with other partners at University of Toronto in particular, who were also interested in furthering leadership capabilities for residents and for faculty, and came up with an idea to develop a summit – to have a conversation. So, the International Summit on Leadership Education for Physicians was born, and the first one occurred in 2014. Through those meetings we then had an opportunity to engage about what would, and what should, be done in terms of leadership education, supporting leadership capacity worldwide, and Sanokondu was born out of that. 

Sano means health and Kondu means leadership in the language Esperanto, which is a universal language. And from there we have had many initiatives and built many partnerships and coalitions.  That has been lots of fun. Initially it started with nine online modules for Resident leadership development that had collaborators from across Canada and parts of the globe including patient partners and learners. And then, through the most recent work in partnership with the Equity in Health Systems Lab and with the pandemic where there was a clear need for peer support in leadership, the development of several virtual monthly series where we gather to talk and learn. One series is particularly focused on social justice and leadership and so we have monthly conversations with individuals around the globe, talking about their perspectives on specific areas, whether it be talking about anti-racist practices to addressing climate change and planetary health- diverse topics that leaders need to think about and address in the current day.

DMacA: You mentioned CanMEDS but you very modestly didn’t mention the fact that you’d been given an award by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Tell me about that award.

Ming-Ka: Yes, that was really exciting. That was awarded in 2021 for some of the work that I’ve been doing. I will say, however, that while my passion has always been in leadership education, and more recently with an emphasis on social justice and that intersection, I am a generalist educator. So, I have done work primarily in the CanMEDS Leader Role but also with the Scholar-Teacher role throughout my career. It was an honour to be named, especially when I look at the colleagues that have been named prior to me as well as subsequent, in terms of the work that we’ve been able to do individually but also collectively. In many ways I share that award with some of my collaborators throughout my career. It was a real honour.

DMacA: You and I are both convinced of the importance of leadership but many of our clinical colleagues aren’t just as enthusiastic. They feel it’s more important to spend time with patients. What do you say to them when they say – why should I be involved in leadership?

Ming-Ka: I think of it in two ways. I think so much of health and health care involves change, so leadership is about supporting and facilitating change, whether that be for patients, families, or communities. The other is in the area of advocacy and I do think that we advocate for our patients and families on the day-to-day basis with the patients who present in our offices, emergencies, etc. And then, I think we need to think about the bigger picture, the system issues, thinking about it from a lens of prevention, and thinking about it on a more global scale. As an example, if you think about the issues of planetary health and the impact of the climate crisis across Canada, we’ve had numerous forest fires in many parts of many provinces that have been impacting the health of people, and to the point around social justice, disproportionately and to a much higher degree, affecting Indigenous Peoples. So, I’m hoping that we can inspire individuals to work together collectively to help prevent and support these health-related issues.  

DMacA: I’m really impressed with the work that you’ve done Canada-wide and internationally. People who talk about leadership and these big influential international events think that they need to be done from major capital cities. So, is it difficult to do from Winnipeg?

Ming-Ka: I think that’s an interesting question. The beauty is being able to have national collaborations and partnerships as well as global and, in this day and age, with connectivity and so many different modalities, I think there’s a huge potential, regardless of where you are located. I think the important thing is to have a peer support system, mentorship, sponsorship, and that can take shape no matter where you are. It may be easier to find some of those supports in a larger city or a bigger institution, but I will say that most of my long-term mentors and peer support members are actually from across the globe. So that’s been a wonderful opportunity to collaborate and partner.

DMacA: Finally let me ask you – because people will be so impressed with what you do clinically, in education, and in leadership – how do you balance all these things in your life?

Ming-Ka: I’m only at 25% clinical at this stage, which was an evolution in my career, and a deliberate one. I acknowledge that I have many privileges in that I’m in a dual income household and my children are essentially grown. I have a 17-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter and my husband is also in medicine. So, I have a family support system that really nurtures and I’ve been lucky that throughout my career, I’ve had a lot of flexibility. On the other hand, I also believe that it’s really important to prioritize family. They are very much the heart and, I often say they’re the best of who I am, and much of what I do is on behalf of them in many ways. So that keeps me on that path. But I do make sure that I nurture my relationships at home, and friendships, to maintain that body -mind-spirit and that work-home integration. But it’s definitely, I think, always a work in progress. There are definitely some better days and there are also some very complex days that unfold…that you have to work through and have conversations. The last thing I would say is there’s always lots of laughter and lots of conversation. Just being willing to listen, check-in. I’ve always been lucky that my husband is my best friend and so I’ve always been able to check-in and get his reflections and feedback in terms of what I’m up to, and what the family is up to, and how that all fits in along with his and my work.

DMacA: Ming-Ka, it’s been fascinating talking to you, and thank you very much for sharing your career, your work in leadership, and indeed, how to balance a home life with such a busy job. 


Dr Ming- Ka Chan

Ming-Ka Chan 陳明嘉 (she/her) is a Chinese settler who immigrated to Turtle Island (known as Canada) at the age of six and is grateful to be on Treaty 1 Territory/homeland of the Métis Nation (known as Winnipeg). She has been a Pediatrics Clinician Educator at the University of Manitoba since 1999. Her focus is within the intersection of healthcare leadership education and social justice; she believes that work in these areas will help all to thrive. Within BMJLeader, she is an associate editor and EDI/Social Justice lead as well as co-editor of the Topic Collection on Leadership Education and Social Justice. Current roles include Co-Director, Office of Leadership Education, at Rady Faculty Health Sciences, University of Manitoba and Pediatrics Lead, Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity and Social Justice. She is also the current Chair of Doctors Manitoba’s Physician Health & Wellness Committee. She is a founding member and current Chair, Sanokondu Executive (a multinational learning community dedicated to fostering health leadership education worldwide: see) and a member of the Equity in Health Systems Lab. She is also the Planning Committee Chair for CLIME 2.0 – the Canadian Leadership Institute for Medical Education (a 3-day leadership intensive with a central theme on social justice) and the founder of the Canadian Pediatric Resident Leadership Conference. Clinically, she works as a hospitalist and as a consultant in clinics organized through Jordan’s Principle.

Declaration of Interests: I have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests:

Regional: Salaried roles at University of Manitoba in Leadership Education and Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity and Social Justice. Doctors Manitoba Physician Health and Wellness Committee Chair. Medical Education research grants from the University of Manitoba

National: Planning Committee Co-Chair and Facilitator of the Canadian Association for Medical Education’s (CAME) 3-day 2021 Canadian Leadership Institute for Medical Education (CLIME 2.0), Facilitator and Planning Committee Member for CLIME 1.0, Facilitator for CAME webinar. Grants from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

International: BMJ Leader Associate Editor, EDI/social justice lead and Co-Editor for Topic collection on Leadership and Social Justice, Facilitator re resident & faculty leadership with Royal College International, Chair of Sanokondu leadership & governance team (multinational community of practice focused on health leadership education for learners), Member of Equity in Health Systems Lab, Curator and Editor for PivotMedEd (curated resources to help pivot medical education work online).


Professor Domhnall MacAuley

Domhnall MacAuley currently serves on the International Editorial Board for BMJ Leader.

Declaration of interests

I have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: none.

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