Dr. Brian Day @DrBrianDay Twitter

  • Past President Canadian Medical Association
  • Past President Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • Honourary Associate Professor University of British Columbia
  • 2014 Doctors of BC Don Rix Leadership Award

The man behind the melee: Dr Brian Day, president-elect of the CMA

Nov 15, 2006

National Review of Medicine
The man behind the melee: Dr Brian Day, president-elect of the CMA
By Jennifer Laliberté

NRM spoke with controversial CMA president-elect Dr Brian Day about his childhood in Britain, his famous friends and what it's like to be the country's most controversial MD.

NRM: What was it like growing up in Liverpool?

Dr Brian Day: It was rough. It was right after WWII and Liverpool had been bombed extensively. My family had a hard time. But it was also very interesting. I remember being at Queen Elizabeth's coronation — I was five or six. I remember the Suez Crisis because we thought there'd be another war. And of course The Beatles.

NRM: Speaking of the Fab Four, who's your favourite Beatle?

Dr Day: Paul McCartney. I always thought he was the most talented. They were four years ahead of me in school, but I was often on the bus with them.

NRM: Did you always want to be a doctor?

Dr Day: My father was a pharmacist so that's what I wanted to do at first. I used to help him in the shop and we would meet all the doctors. We decided that medicine would be more interesting.

NRM: Your father was murdered by drug addicts looking for a fix. Although it was 20 years ago, do you still think about him often?

Dr Day: Yeah, I do. It was actually a father and son. They followed him home one night, broke into the house and killed him.

NRM:That's awful.

Dr Day:Yeah, it was.

NRM: You spent some time in Cuba with Fidel Castro and his son, who's also an orthopedic surgeon. What do a free-enterprise physician and a socialist dictator talk about?

Dr Day: We talked about health policy and education. Castro is remarkably knowledgeable about medicine. Obviously our politics are not close, but he's a very warm and charismatic individual. Know how he eliminated waiting lists in Cuba? He got a letter from an elderly patient, saying he was in a lot of pain and needed a hip replacement but there was a year's wait. So Castro called all the important people into one big auditorium and gave a five-hour speech. He said he'd call them all back again in a year and that there would be 'consequences' if patients were still waiting. He didn't even have to bring them back.

NRM: Your native Britain has a blended private-public system, but the NHS is now in crisis. Do you think Canada should follow Britain's lead?
Dr Day: Who says the NHS is in crisis? They've virtually eliminated wait lists with a pay-by-result system. Instead of operating under a global budget, hospitals get paid for what they actually do. It puts the patient at the top of the pyramid. I'd love to see that happen here.

NRM: How do you feel about your nickname "Dr Profit"?

Dr Day: I prefer it to Dr Loser. But you know, I co-own Cambie Surgery with 42 other shareholders. We opened it because we couldn't operate on our patients, not to make money.

NRM: Your wife's a public healthcare FP. What's it like living a public-private partnership?

Dr Day: We have four children under 11, so she's out of it for a couple of years. But she is an FP doing what they all do. The problem is the public doesn't understand that FPs are running a business, they're renting their own building, paying their own staff, and they have to make a profit in order to survive. They're publicly funded private practitioners.

NRM: What do you do to unwind?

Dr Day: I go and watch my kids play soccer. It's so stressful and relaxing at the same time. I'm not a quiet spectator, but I only really yell when my wife's not there.

NRM: Where'd you go on your last holiday?

Dr Day: (Laughs) PEI?

NRM: I'm not sure the CMA meeting qualifies as a vacation....

Dr Day: We took the family to Mexico last January.

NRM: What's the last book you read?

Dr Day: The Da Vinci Code. But it was too long and I already knew the ending.

NRM: Be honest: could you take Jack Burak in a fight?

Dr Day: Oh, I wouldn't fight Jack! I don't think he should have done what he did, but he had the right to.

NRM: Were you surprised by the brouhaha surrounding the election?

Dr Day: A bit. I didn't like that the media tried to turn it into a referendum on public vs private healthcare, which it wasn't.

NRM: What's your #1 goal for your first six months as head of the CMA?

Dr Day: I'd like to see wait lists drop and some improvement in all the areas that are in crisis — mental health, rural, aboriginal and children's health. I think the CMA can really influence governments in those areas. But you know, being at the head of the CMA is not like being Fidel Castro.!