Guelph physician honoured for management in affected person care

Guelph doctor Andrea Chittle is being honoured by the Ontario College of Family Physicians for her efforts to help patients get the care they needed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Chittle as well as Cambridge’s Dr. Sharon Bal are each receiving a 2021 Award of Excellence from the college, an honour that recognizes family doctors for exceptional achievement in the specialty of family medicine in the past 24 months.

Elora’s Dr. Sarah Gower has been named 2021 Regional Family Physician of the Year for the region of Hamilton Niagara Haldimand brant and Waterloo Wellington. This award is presented annually to seven Ontario family doctors — one from each region of the province — to recognize exemplary care to patients and contributions to excellence in family medicine.

“Through their leadership and passion for patient care and advocacy, whether it be for women’s health, or advancing health system improvements and equity in medicine, or ensuring quality care for vulnerable populations, Dr. Gower, Dr. Bal, and Dr. Chittle have demonstrated their commitment to enhancing health care in the Waterloo-Wellington Region,” OCFP president Dr. Elizabeth Muggah said in a news release.

“These family doctors are highly respected and valued by their colleagues, patients, students and community partners, and I am delighted to acknowledge their outstanding accomplishments,” she said.

Dr. Chittle has been heavily involved in the local COVID-19 response, working at the assessment centre, providing online clinician education sessions, and administering more than a thousand vaccines at the University of Guelph’s mass vaccination site, the release said.

Dr. Chittle developed multilingual and literacy-targeted patient handouts and co-ordinated their translation. These resources have been shared with COVID-19 assessment centres around Ontario.

Dr. Chittle also helped develop COVID-19 vaccine resources for clinicians and patients.

In 2019, Dr. Chittle stepped in as board chair of ARCH (HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health), providing advice and support during a period of transition. Her involvement helped ensure standards of care, support, and many other services to patients were maintained, the release said.

When the pandemic hit, her support was instrumental in enabling ARCH to safely continue doing important front-line work in the community, it said.

“She was integral to the success of ARCH in supporting people living with, affected by, and at-risk for HIV in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jillian Watkins, former interim executive director at ARCH, said in the release. “This work was done as a volunteer, on top of all her many work and family responsibilities, because she cared about the health and well-being of her community.”

Among her various achievements, Dr. Gower was recognized with an inaugural Canadian Women in Medicine “Woman of Inspiration” award in 2019 for her unique work in mentoring bereaved physician mothers.

She recently completed a master of science in population medicine at the University of Guelph. She looked at care for patients experiencing pregnancy after stillbirth and knowledge translation to rural primary care providers, with the goal to create a national stillbirth plan.

In March and April this year, with her colleagues she piloted an innovative drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Elora that will continue to operate for both influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations. She is spearheading a new Rural Wellington Residential Hospice, to address a gap in the local healthcare system.

Dr. Bal, who was actively involved in the design and implementation of the Cambridge North Dumfries Ontario Health Team, oversaw the local COVID-19 response in long-term care and retirement homes.

As the primary care contact for the region’s COVID-19 response, Dr. Bal advocated for primary care involvement in testing and vaccination. She also ensured populations with the greatest vulnerabilities were not overlooked, working to support Indigenous community-led efforts around testing and vaccines, as well as collaborating with outreach workers to support local shelters, including during outbreaks.

The three physicians were presented with their awards at a virtual ceremony on Nov. 10.

A full recipient list is posted online at


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