Dr. Siva Karunakaran, a nephrologist from Regina, was elected president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) on Friday at the 2018 Spring Representative Assembly (RA). He succeeds Dr. Joanne Sivertson, a Prince Albert obstetrician and gynaecologist.
Dr. Karunakaran’s connection to the SMA began when he was an RA delegate in 2006. He then progressed through the ranks, from the Regina Qu’Appelle Regional Medical Association to section head for nephrology in Regina to membership on the SMA Board of Directors in 2011.
“I have had a chance to understand how health-care delivery works in the province and to make a contribution,” Dr. Karunakaran said. “Now I have a chance to continue to change the system for the better.”
Dr. Karunakaran’s term as president is for one year. His priorities include enhancing physician wellness and negotiating a new agreement for physicians with the province. The current Medical Compensation Review Committee agreement expired on Mar. 31, 2017.
“I’m hoping to work with the SMA’s negotiating team to come up with the best agreement possible for our doctors, and to make the SMA better,” he said. “We also need to do more work on the physician well-being side of things, improving conditions for the doctors of our province,”
Dr. Karunakaran feels his years of involvement with the SMA, including the past seven on the Board of Directors, has prepared him well for the challenges and issues facing the profession in the coming year.
“I thought when the opportunity came up to step into an executive role, I would do that. My turn came up five years after joining the board and when offered that opportunity, I took it. Now I feel ready to get to work. I’m not really anxious. I feel I am ready, that I have progressed through the steps just like everybody else who has gone on before me.”
Dr. Karunakaran becomes the 52nd president of the SMA. He was born and raised in northern Sri Lanka, where he met his wife, Kumudhini, in medical school. The two fled Sri Lanka before graduating due to ethnic conflict on the island, and came to Canada in 1991. They completed their medical degrees at St. George’s University in Grenada in 1995, and took further training in their specialties at what was then called the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo.
Employment opportunities for both came up in Regina in 2001, so they took them and made the Prairie city their home.
“We were in the same medical school class back in the beginning in Sri Lanka, so we studied together and trained together and now we’re working together,” Siva said. “We liked the practice environment in Regina, the hospital, the people here, so we decided to stay long- term.”
The Saskatchewan Medical Association (www.sma.sk.ca) is a voluntary, member-based, professional association for physicians, medical students and residents in the province and it is the provincial chapter of the Canadian Medical Association. As the trusted voice of Saskatchewan’s 2,300 practising physicians, the SMA negotiates for and on behalf of doctors; supports the educational, professional, economic and personal well-being of physicians; and advocates for a high-quality and patient-centred health-care system.
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