This Monday-Wednesday morning, I had the privilege to attend HealthAchieve, the OHA’s crown jewel of healthcare conferences. This is where the brightest minds across the province meet and mingle over speakers and sessions, exhibits and events. The theme this year was “learn, share, evolve”, a lofty yet fitting goal for this kind of thing.

Overshadowing everything was the hair-raising, nail-biting, breath-holding US election. It framed every conversation. Some of the speakers were from south of the border and joked on Monday and Tuesday that if things didn’t go well, would we mind terribly if they just stayed with us? It was a surefire way to get the crowd to smile and laugh … a safe gag since there couldn’t ever possibly be a need.

High Power Poses vs Low Power Poses
High Power Poses vs Low Power Poses

Amy Cuddy opened the session on Monday with a great talk on how your body language shapes who you are. The nutshell version is that when we take power postures, ones that make us bigger and more open, we feel strong and we become what we feel. When we feel powerless and depressed, we do the opposite and get really small. This makes us feel even more powerless and depressed. The upside is if we strike a power pose even when (especially when) we don’t feel so hot, it makes us feel stronger so that when we tackle the tough stuff (job interview, saving the environment, meeting the parents) we have better results.

Don’t take my word for it. Check out the TED talk…


Later that day, I did a quick power pose before chairing the green healthcare session, Innovative Environmental Sustainability. That was a treat as I got to listen to the blindingly bright and hopeful mind of Raymond Wang. He’s one of Canada’s top 20 under 20 for his work in STEM and for founding Sustainable Youth Canada empowering youth across Canada in energy and environmental sustainability.

He also has a few TED talks to his name, though not on the same focus we heard at the conference (we got a brand spanking new slide deck). But hey, why not check them out?


After Raymond’s talk, he traveled back to Harvard for a mid-term … that’s dedication! I took a stroll through the Healing Garden and the rest of the Healthy Green Promenade.

Healing Garden on the Healthy Green Promenade
Healing Garden on the Healthy Green Promenade

Day 2 brought about the hilarious antics of Howie Mandel! He made the organizers a little anxious by insisting on a talk-show style performance instead of a standard solo talk. Major kudos to James G. McCracken, Chair of HealthAchieve for being a very good sport. He used to be the principal (or was it vice-principal?) at Howie’s school. As Howie was no stranger to trouble, the two already knew each other … ahem … quite well. For more stories, see Howie’s book, “Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me”, which chronicles his battle with OCD. He had very wise words on the need for embedded mental health support everywhere.

(L-R) James G. McCracken & Howie Mandel at HealthAchieve
(L-R) James G. McCracken & Howie Mandel at HealthAchieve

As he spoke, he couldn’t help mention the elephant in the room. He said that “Today I voted to stay in Canada. This trip is just an excuse to come back, look for housing and use my OHIP card”. It was funny then.

Wednesday morning, the world woke up to a new and unthinkable reality. The mood at the closing session was almost funereal, though Rob Cohen, Writer, Director, and Producer (the Simpsons!) lightened it with some humour. Later, I’ll check out his hotdoc “Being Canadian: What Makes Canada Unique”.

Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, had many thoughts on keeping healthcare sustainable (a word we love here) through Choosing Wisely, a campaign to help clinicians and patients reduce unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures while keeping outcomes positive. But first he looked the elephant right in the eye and took a moment to say “On behalf of good men everywhere, if I can count myself among them, I want to apologize to all women”, acknowledging the high number of men who gave DJT the win despite his outright sexism (and his danger to the planet). He also quoted some recent tweets by women “This further proves that a man will be forgiven for literally everything and a woman nothing”. By acknowledging the symptoms of the disease, there is a chance to fix it. This is healthcare. This is what we do.


In the spirit of Howie Mandel’s call for mental health support everywhere, know that it is there for you.

  • Call the Distress Centre (Toronto) 416 408 4357 to reach their 24/7 crisis support line
  • More resources listed through CAMH
  • The Ontario Mental Health HelpLine 1-866-531-2600
  • If you live in the USA, there are a lot of resources for you here

And if you want something to put it all in perspective, Read Wait But Why‘s “It’s Going to be OK“.