Doctors Nova Scotia welcomes Dal alumna Dr. Leisha Hawker as new president
Dr. Leisha Hawker (MD’11) of Halifax, N.S., was installed as Doctors Nova Scotia’s President during the association’s virtual annual conference earlier this month (June 2022).
“I am passionate about health equity and improving the health-care system and the physician environment in Nova Scotia,” said Dr. Hawker.
Dr. Hawker received her medical training in Halifax at Dalhousie Medical School. She completed her training in family medicine in 2013 and earned a certificate of added competence in addiction medicine in 2019.
“I was fortunate to have excellent preceptors and mentors throughout medical school and residency training at Dalhousie,” Dr. Hawker says. “During my training I had the opportunity to do rotations throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and experienced health care in many settings. I also learned immensely from my fellow classmates who continue to inspire me.”
Working with marginalized populations
Her primary role is at the North End Community Health Centre on Gottingen Street in Halifax. It is a collaborative health centre with a large team of allied health professionals working alongside physicians. The clinic serves a historically marginalized, low socio-economic and culturally diverse population.
She also works at Regency Park Addiction Clinic where she provides care to patients in Halifax, who typically have only had episodic care from the emergency department or correctional services prior to admission to the clinic.
Dr. Leisha Hawker’s third clinic is the Halifax Newcomer Health Clinic, which she helped establish. The clinic provides primary care for refugees before transitioning them to a community family practice.
“I’ve always had an interest in working with marginalized populations,” said Dr. Hawker. “My career has been focused on equity and social justice – I look at the patient from the perspective of the health of the community.”
A ‘physician to watch’
Her other interests include gender-affirming care, medical assistance in dying, decriminalizing drugs and harm reduction. Her work has been recognized by the Nova Scotia College of Family Physicians, which awarded her the Award of Excellence in 2016. Doctors Nova Scotia awarded her the Dr. William Grigor Award in 2015. The Medical Post named her one of the Top 20 Physicians to Watch in 2015.
Dr. Hawker has broad experience with Doctors Nova Scotia (DNS). She was on the Board of Directors during the 2019 contract negotiations and served as co-chair of the E-health Committee. She appeared in the Nova Scotia legislature to discuss Nova Scotia’s physician shortage in 2020 and to talk about virtual care and the need for a shared vision for primary care in 2022.
She has also been active in leadership roles outside of DNS. Dr. Hawker served on the executive committee of the Nova Scotia College of Family Physicians. She is actively engaged with the CMA and did a term on the board of the CMA Foundation. She has been a member of the CMA’s election readiness campaign since 2019.
Face of a changing workforce
As a female physician with a young family who is still early in her career, Dr. Hawker brings to her role a valuable perspective on the changing physician workforce and the challenges that physicians face with work-life integration. She sees technology as an area of opportunity.
“Over the past year we have seen a tremendous transformation in the way physicians practise. As co-chair of the association’s E-health Committee I have been working diligently to incorporate virtual care as a way for physicians to provide care. The ongoing pandemic, while challenging, is a growth opportunity and I hope to lead Doctors Nova Scotia through this critical time.”
Dr. Hawker has stayed connected to Dalhousie since graduation through teaching. “I regularly take medical students for their core family medicine rotations and also have medical students and residents for electives in addiction medicine.”
She also enjoyed attending many Family Medicine Interest Group events at Dalhousie’s medical school. “I am lucky to work with a few of my classmates from the Dal Med School class of 2011 at the North End Community Health Centre and at the Newcomer Health Clinic. I have also enjoyed being a lecturer for the Nova Scotia Practice Ready Assessment Program for international medical graduates for the past several years.”