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A Winnipeg doctor has been named a recipient of a prestigious national award for young leaders in the field of medicine.
The Canadian Medical Association has presented its annual Awards for Young Leaders since 2004 to six individuals — two students, two residents, and two doctors early in their career — who have presented exemplary leadership in their time in the medical field.
This year’s winners, announced Monday, include Winnipeg obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Vanessa Poliquin.
Poliquin, who specializes in infectious diseases at the Health Sciences Centre Women’s Hospital, wears many hats. Along with her work as a physician, she is co-chairwoman of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada infectious disease committee and an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba.
Still, Poliquin said she first felt "surprise and wonder" when told in February she’d won the award.
"I was being recognized among what I expected and truthfully are some real giants. The other award recipients — it’s humbling to read what they’ve contributed to their communities," she said Monday.
"And then as the spring went on, I almost felt like the award was a premonition, because I felt more deserving... as we progressed through this spring and as my leadership role evolved through COVID."
As the novel coronavirus pandemic became a reality in the province, however, she realized her expertise was needed on a wider scale. Her intersection of knowledge in women’s health and infectious diseases led Poliquin to take a leadership role in providing information on COVID-19 and obstetrical care used by the province and beyond.
She said while COVID-19 may have made the importance of supporting under-studied "watershed areas of medicine" more apparent, gaps in specific medical training have always existed — something she realized when she first began researching how infectious diseases affect pregnant women.
Poliquin said she hoped the recent honour would help create a path for medical professionals who recognize gaps in care and pursue specialized training to fill them.
"I believe that my training has at least helped me contribute positively to my department and how best to navigate what is the unknown that was so difficult to prepare for," she said. "And I’m hopeful that with a greater breadth of different specialists, no matter what challenges are thrown our way, we’ll have people with the expertise to help us navigate that unknown."
The CMA Awards for Young Leaders will be presented during a virtual ceremony in December.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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