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Making Waves: Dr. Steven Soroka Leadership Excellence Award – Physician Leader

Strong physician leaders can make an impact at all levels across the health care system.  Collaboration and teamwork are essential elements in the delivery of high-quality care, and physician leaders play a direct role in setting team goals for improvement and making sustainable positive changes that benefit both Nova Scotians and our entire health system.

A physician leader who demonstrates these important leadership qualities is Dr. Steven Soroka, this year’s recipient of the Making Waves Leadership Excellence Award for Physician Leadership. As a physician leader, he meaningfully engages with his team to work toward increasing access, quality, and equitability of health services at Nova Scotia Health.

Q&A with Dr. Steven Soroka

Tell us a bit about yourself; what you do, where you are located, and your favourite part about it.

I am a professor of medicine at Dalhousie University, adult nephrologist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, and Senior Medical Director of the Renal Program and Pharmacy Services with Nova Scotia Health.

I have a busy clinical practice of adult nephrology, including dialysis, pre-dialysis, and chronic kidney disease care. My day-to-day clinical schedule could involve seeing dialysis patients, looking after patients on the ward, doing consultations at the QEII Health Sciences Centre Halifax Infirmary, reviewing patient charts and blood work results, or telehealth to satellite dialysis patients outside of Halifax. I also travel to Dartmouth, Kentville, and Liverpool four times a year to see patients.

My favourite part of my work is the variety of things I get to do, I find it keeps me energized. In addition to teaching at the Dalhousie medical school, I do a lot of Continuing Medical Education in communities with primary care and allied health professionals. During COVID-19, I was, and still am involved in developing Continuing Professional Development material for various topics in nephrology.

I am also co-chair of a Knowledge Translation/Utilization and Implementation Science Committee for a very large research grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research focusing on kidney research, Can-SOLVE.

Overall, I like taking on new initiatives and projects that challenge me to grow and acquire new skills.

How do you feel your work contributes to the health and wellbeing of Nova Scotians? Why is it important?

We are focusing on how we can improve patient experience and care in Nova Scotia. As a Senior Medical Director, I am working with medical leadership to improve access to dialysis and strategically build dialysis units in locations that bring care closer to home so patients aren’t travelling long distances to access care. For the last few years, I’ve focused on embedding The Quintuple Aim in the activities and initiatives of the Renal Program, which includes ensuring equity of care, financial stewardship, and provider wellbeing, in addition to patient experience and improving care.

In the continuing medical education area, it is important to translate new knowledge from clinical trials, such that it can be incorporated into direct patient care. Increasing knowledge awareness helps us use new therapies or treatments more quickly that better the lives of people living with chronic kidney disease. Some of the work is going a little bit upstream to deal diabetes and cardiac disease to prevent the developing end-stage kidney disease so we can keep people off dialysis.

Additionally, as a surveyor for Accreditation Canada, I have brought this knowledge to Nova Scotia Health to help us meet the requirements of the Accreditation Program.

What does it mean to you to receive the Leadership Excellence Award?

It is very humbling since there are so many talented and skilled people in our organization. However, this award is not just about me, it’s also about the talented and wonderful people that I work with on a day-to-day basis. I work with a great Senior Director of the Renal Program, David Landry, and we work collaboratively together to make sure we engage with a high-functioning team. I am also fortunate to work with some amazing people in pharmacy. So, even though this award goes to a physician leader, I would not be a recipient if it wasn’t for the wonderful team of people that I work with across Nova Scotia Health so I would say it is their award as well.

As this year’s recipient of the Leadership Excellence Award – Physician Leader, how do you hope to inspire others who are working to make a difference in the lives of Nova Scotians each day?

I believe that it is important to lead by example and model the behaviour you want to see in others. One of the things that I did for Accreditation was highlighted the role that physicians and clinicians have in being part of a team and supporting the work of others in a meaningful way.

Hopefully, the work that people have seen me involved in would inspire people because if you want to, you can make a difference. Whether that be through quality improvement initiatives, improving care access or anything, it is worth the effort because it makes health care better for Nova Scotians.

Congratulations to Dr. Soroka on receiving this year’s Making Waves: Leadership Excellence Award – Physician Leader. This award recognizes an outstanding physician leader at Nova Scotia Health who demonstrates outstanding achievements that have had a significant impact on health policy, service delivery, organizational culture and/or continuous improvement, and Dr. Soroka has done just that and more.

 As the long-serving Senior Medical Director of the Renal Program and Pharmacy Services at Nova Scotia Health, Dr. Soroka has an unwavering commitment to quality improvement, person-centred care, and equitable access to care.  He works tirelessly to make improvements for health care providers, patients and families, and the broader health care system. As noted in his award nomination, Dr. Soroka has championed the increase of renal services in underserved communities which has resulted in the opening of new dialysis shifts in two hospitals and new dialysis infrastructure across the province.  

Congratulations Dr. Soroka!

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