Posted: May 1, 2016

Dr Peter Potts provides care at one of the most joyful times in the lives of a family.

Dr. Potts is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Grand River Hospital. Over the past 25 years, he’s helped deliver an estimated 7,500 babies at Waterloo Region’s busiest childbirth centre.

Dr. Potts has also had an active role in medical leadership, first within his department and then as deputy chief of staff.

Now as the interim chief of staff for Grand River and St. Mary’s hospitals, Dr. Potts balances his time providing care for families while supporting the doctors, dentists and midwives practicing at both organizations.

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Why did you become a doctor, and specialize in obstetrics?

I think it allowed me to combine my interest in science and biology with my wish to be involved with people and caring for people. Obstetrics is a happy, interesting specialty. There’s a nice combination of medicine and surgery

How has obstetrical practice changed over the years?

We have much better technology, ultrasound and prenatal diagnosis. We know what’s going on earlier on, so there are very few surprises. I think there’s a lot more autonomy for patients, they’re much more involved in their own care, and that’s been a good thing. They have a lot more say in how their labour is going to progress and what sort of interventions are going to be done.

Midwifery has been a good addition; it’s allowed people a lot more choice in terms of providers. It’s helped us with the provision of care for low-risk patients so obstetricians can focus on care for high-risk patients.

Babies are born around the clock. How do you deal with the demands on your time?

I’m not sure you ever get used to it. Three o’clock in the morning will always be three o’clock in the morning no matter who you are and what you’re doing. So it’s something you accept and have the discipline to be more careful and more thorough.

What sparked your interest in medical leadership?

I’ve had an interest in the provision of health care from a community-based perspective. A clinician looks at the provision of health care one-on-one with each patient. As we move into leadership, we look at the provision of care from the community as a whole. That’s a whole different perspective, and a whole new challenge.

How has the work you’ve done in leadership influenced the care you provide?

If anything, it makes you more careful because a lot of times that you spend as chief of department or chief of staff, you’re dealing with less-than-perfect outcomes. So it makes you more careful and more grateful for when things go well.

What would you say to physicians thinking about leadership roles?

The biggest thing that’s in it for them is the chance to look at health care from a very different perspective, from a community or a more holistic perspective. As physicians, we have a very specific perspective. It’s one-on-one, it’s with each patient in front of you. But when you’re asked to look at a global budget or provision of care for a community, it’s just so different and it’s a whole new challenge that can enrich your work life.

What keeps you practicing medicine?

The challenge, the fact that no situation is ever quite the same. Probably the joy that comes to people when they have a successful delivery, the enjoyment of being involved with a couple at a very important moment in their life. Obstetricians want to be a constructive part of the birth process and part of an overall obstetrical team. They’re very caring in their approach.

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