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Banffite ready to take presidency of medical college

“Many of the things that have come my way are because people told me I couldn’t do it. And so, I dug in and tried to prove people wrong.”

BANFF – A Banff born and raised orthopaedic surgeon is gearing up to become president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Ottawa.

But if you told Dr. Marcia Clark when she was forerunning the 1988 Olympic Winter Games slalom course that she’d become the president of a medical college, she probably wouldn’t believe you.

“Medicine was not on my horizon when I was a young person,” said Clark.

Although, it was because of her pursuit in athletics that she did ultimately put medicine on her horizon.

“I completed high school and that was because of the support of all the teachers that were in high school. And because of that, that led to a scholarship for skiing in the NCAA,” said Clark. “And it’s only then when I started my university career that I thought I might have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to pursue medicine and it was from athletics.”

After skiing for the Bow Valley Quickies, Banff Alpine Racers and Canadian Ski Team, she went to the University of New Mexico to earn a Bachelor of Science, followed by a Master of Science and Doctor of Medicine from the University of Calgary.

Clark took on the one-year role of president-elect at the Royal College on Feb. 21 of this year, which will be followed by a two-year term as president starting in February 2025. The college is a charity membership organization that supports medical education in Canada.

Under her presidency, Clark is looking forward to carrying out the college’s 2023-2026 strategic plan, which focuses on planetary health, sustainable health care, indigenous health, anti-racism and diversity, among others.

“Marcia is, in addition to being a very talented surgeon, is very interested in planetary health. And she’s been working on projects related to operative waste,” said Dr. Brian Hodges, current president of the Royal College.

“It’s a major priority for us planetary health, both for the next generation to learn it and for us to help understand how we serve in a world that is changing when we have rapid forest fires and floods and climate disasters, so her interest in this really caught all of our attention.”

Clark also expressed an interest in how artificial intelligence (AI) can be integrated in health care.

“The other is a focus on, I’m going to call it, innovation and health technology, and how we move forward as an organization and thinking about concepts, which is AI, and help integrate it into our learning, integrate it into our hospital systems and our patient care,” said Clark.

The former ski racer continues her involvement of athletics from the medical side by supporting various ski events and even Formula 1 and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

“Because I have a special certification in sport medicine … that provides me credentials to help take care of athletes and teams at high level, so with that, it allowed me to support Alpine Canada in their world cup venues at races,” said Clark.

“I was invited into Formula 1, firstly Honda Indy and then Formula 1 in Montreal, and then now Formula 1 in Abu Dhabi. So, every year I go over and work closely with international health care providers to provide track side care. So, it’s another interesting way to use my abilities and skills.”

However, it wasn’t always sunshine and race cars for Clark as she faced doubts when pursuing her career.

“When I wanted to go to orthopaedic surgery, I was dismissed, told how hard it was and that men go into it. I even went to Ottawa to the army recruiting office to see if there was an opportunity there to be supported,” said Clark.

“Many of the things that have come my way are because people told me I couldn’t do it. And so, I dug in and tried to prove people wrong.”

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