Introducing Dr. Melanie Lewis: A champion for the well-being of our health care workforce

Melanie Lewis, MD, FRCPC, MMedEd, has been appointed to lead the National Plan for Health Workforce Well-Being initiative that will address the pressing issue of burnout among health care providers. In December 2023, the Royal College announced funding in the amount of $3.5 million from Health Canada for this multi-year initiative.

A prominent figure in health care leadership, Dr. Lewis will serve as our chair of the National Collaborative Steering Committee (National Collaborative).

An ardent promoter of well-being among medical learners and physicians, with decades of experience in health care administration and a deep understanding of the challenges faced by front-line health care workers, Dr. Lewis is well positioned to spearhead this critical initiative.

Dr. Melanie Lewis

Melanie Lewis, MD, FRCPC, MMedEd

While she acknowledges health care provider burnout has been building for years, she sees a country that is now at the tipping point. There is an urgency and a prospect for real change.

She underscores the cultural shift required to create more compassionate and supportive environments for health care professionals. Drawing from her experiences in health care, including her background as a nurse, she highlights the significance of challenging traditional norms and promoting empathy and inclusivity in addressing workforce well-being.

“I care deeply about making our work environments better as quickly as possible,” says Dr. Lewis, but she acknowledges meaningful change takes time. “[Members of the National Collaborative] will have amazing contributions and will share ownership of a vision to support the health of our colleagues and ultimately the quality of care we deliver.”  

On May 31, Dr. Lewis will welcome other members of the National Collaborative virtually and in person in Ottawa to officially launch their work.  “I am excited to bring organizations to the same table, to collaborate towards a common goal and to break down the silos I’ve seen my whole career.”

The National Collaborative, which will bring together representatives from physician and other health care professions, will develop comprehensive strategies to support the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of health care professionals across the nation. By fostering collaboration and leveraging the latest research and best practices, the committee will seek to implement sustainable solutions to alleviate burnout, which in turn will enhance the overall quality of care.

Dr. Lewis believes it is imperative we shift from a focus of individual resiliency to one of systemic change; advocating for a broader approach that prioritizes and addresses workload, resources, remuneration structures and creating environments where health care professionals feel heard and valued.

At the University of Alberta, Dr. Lewis is currently chief wellness officer in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and professor of Pediatrics. She is also a consultant pediatrician at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, caring for both inpatient and ambulatory patients. Dr. Lewis is also director of the Edmonton Down Syndrome Clinic, which she co-founded.

Dr. Lewis earned her bachelor of nursing and then her medical degree from the University of Calgary and completed her pediatric residency at the University of Alberta. Pursuing her interest in teaching, she completed her master’s degree in medical education with the University of Dundee in Scotland. During the following decade, Dr. Lewis supported undergraduate, postgraduate and graduate learners in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta as associate dean in the Office of Advocacy and Wellbeing.

As an active advocate for well-being in the workplace, she also makes a conscious effort to lead the principles of a balanced life.

“I have some incredible friends and family so that’s my well-being spot and if I didn’t have athletics, I don’t know where I’d be,” admits Dr. Lewis. “My mindfulness is backcountry and downhill skiing and running and lifting weights.”

More information regarding the National Collaborative and its work will be shared in the coming months.