A shift has taken place in the world of orthopaedics with the appointment of SHN’s own Dr. Warren Latham as the president of the prestigious Canadian Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (COFAS)!

During his time as an orthopaedic surgeon and corporate chief of orthopaedics at SHN—a recognized centre of excellence for providing musculoskeletal/orthopaedic care to one of the most culturally diverse populations in Canada—Dr. Latham’s expertise has elevated the field and informed his approach to improving orthopaedic patient care.

Dr. Latham’s journey, from providing exceptional quality care to orthopaedic and surgical patients to his new role as COFAS president, speaks to his commitment to bettering our community’s wellbeing.

In this Q-and-A, Dr. Latham offers insights into his continuing journey with SHN and his plans for presidency at COFAS.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did your time at SHN propel you toward presidency?

I’ve been in SHN since 2007 as a staff surgeon and foot and ankle specialist. I trained fellows and residents for over a decade, before taking on the corporate chief of orthopaedics position since 2020. That particular position really helped me understand organizational change.

When you gain experience as a leader, it helps you think about national projects. Being a leader of smaller scale projects at SHN has helped tremendously with looking at larger scale projects. My time at SHN applies to the planning, development, application and the delivery of programs and processes to better COFAS.

What is COFAS and what are some of your goals as president?

COFAS is an organization of foot and ankle surgeons across Canada that has been around for 25 years, originally starting as a research entity. I think the biggest role I’ll have over the next two years is to redefine the organization as a whole; we’re starting to ask some critical questions, like: “What is the most appropriate role for COFAS?”

I believe we should be expanding COFAS as an educational tool for other professions to learn about foot and ankle problems, concerns, and pathologies across not only Scarborough, but all of Canada. Previously, surgeons were getting together and discussingthese ideas, rather than broadening our appeal to allied health professionals, like podiatrists, nurse practitioners, and physicians. By combining perspectives and expanding our way of thinking, we can serve a much broader landscape of orthopaedic patients.

I’ve laid out a process and timeline for us to reenergize COFAS since the pandemic really took a toll on it. We are interested in popularizing education and ideas for funding orthopaedic surgery, along with reinvigorating our research arm and COFAS itself as an entity.

And I think if we can do that, we’ll be pretty proud of the outcome.

How will this work impact SHN and the Scarborough community as a whole?

When running an organization like ours, it is important to think about how every decision applies to the greater community. Not just the population or the patients, but also the physicians and healthcare workers.

We’re trying to think of all the different populations that make up a community, and how we can support those populations in education delivery.

For example, Scarborough has a large, diverse population with a significant number of co-morbidities (diseases that lead to, or occur at the same time as, other diseases), including diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are at greater risk of foot health problems, like changes in the shape of feet, skin health, loss of sensation, and blood flow issues. Because diabetes has a strong prevalence in individuals of Asian, South Asian and Caribbean descent, who comprise a significant portion of the Scarborough community, SHN has become a leader in diabetes education, management, treatment and prevention strategies, including orthopaedic foot care.

We want to figure out how to apply these exceptional strategies and educational tools nationally, to be able to deliver better care to patients outside Scarborough. The community the patient lives in can change how we deliver that care. So, that’s translatable, not only to SHN, but on a global scale.

How does knowledge-sharing work between physicians and orthopaedic societies, and why is it important?

One of the strategies that we really have thought about in the early phases of my presidency is globalization. What does that mean? Well, how do we get new ideas?

We need to ask experts and we need to seek new experiences and ways of thinking in orthopaedic healthcare. We’re thinking about creating a national standalone COFAS meeting in order to partner with national organizations for foot and ankle surgery from around the world, such as the British Orthopedic Clinical Society.

We want to create a strategy going forward from April 2024, so as we move around the world, we’ll seek more relationships and partnerships. Year by year, we collect new stories and experiences from other organizations, like the New Zealand and Columbian Foot and Ankle societies, to expand our own knowledge. Incorporating different thought processes about diagnoses and treatment can be invaluable to treating common conditions in our communities.

It’s going to require a lot of hard work, but I think that it will be worthwhile, not just for people in Scarborough, but communities across the country.