CAPE appoints Vancouver family doctor Dr. Melissa Lem as its first president of colour, Dr. Samantha Green as president-elect, and reveals its 2022-2024 Strategic Plan

CAPE and its members attending the organization’s annual general meeting this November 19 welcomed Vancouver family physician Dr. Melissa Lem as the first board president of colour in CAPE’s close to 30-year existence. Dr. Lem is of Chinese descent and hails from Toronto. She will lead the organization for the next two years. 

Dr. Lem is a Vancouver family physician who also works in rural and northern communities within Canada. She has been a member of CAPE since medical school, and on its board of directors since 2017. Director of Canada’s national nature prescription program PaRx powered by the BC Parks Foundation, she is an internationally recognized leader in the field of nature and health. She has also engaged in advocacy and policy work on a broad range of other issues, from banning fossil fuel advertising and hydraulic fracturing to sustainable health care and low-carbon transportation. A widely published writer, her work has appeared in media including the CBC, Vancouver Sun, Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, The Narwhal and National Observer. As a climate change panellist on CBC Radio’s Early Edition, in-house medical columnist for CBC TV Vancouver, and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, one of her major priorities is knowledge translation.

As a physician and mother working at the intersection of health and the climate and biodiversity crises, I’m reminded on a daily basis of how much is at stake if we fail to take effective action on both,” says Dr. Lem. “Over the past year, we’ve seen extreme heat, flooding, drought and wildfires driven by climate change on the West Coast—but also an increasing number of health professionals standing up for a liveable planet. As I step into the presidency of CAPE at this critical time, I look forward to working with CAPE to mobilize the health community towards a healthy future for all.”

Dr. Lem is the inaugural winner of University College’s Young Alumni of Influence Award at the University of Toronto, a 2021 World Parks Week Ambassador, winner of the Canadian Museum of Nature’s 2022 Adult Nature Inspiration Award and sits on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Mental Health and Climate Change and Advisory Committee of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Health and Well-being Specialist Group.

CAPE also appointed Dr. Samantha Green as its president-elect for the next two years. Dr. Green is a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and at Inner City Health Associates in Toronto. She has been involved with CAPE for many years and has sat on its board of directors since 2017. She is the former Faculty Lead in Climate Change & Health at the University of Toronto’s Department of Family & Community Medicine. Her clinical work focuses on marginalized populations, especially those experiencing homelessness, those involved in the criminal justice system, and newcomers. She advocates for climate action with the aim of improving the health of her patients and community.

At CAPE’s annual general meeting, Dr. Lem presented the organization’s 2022-2024 Strategic Plan. Since its inception in 1994, CAPE and its community have advocated for policies that protect the health of people and the planetary foundations that underpin it. CAPE’s recent work has focused on climate change, legislative and regulatory reform, environmental justice, and the health benefits of nature-based solutions that address the ecological and climate crises. “Despite the many successes and significant impact of CAPE these past decades, there is much still to be done,” says Interim Executive Director, Raissa Marks. “CAPE needs to be strategic in directing its efforts and resources to maximize impact and this plan lays out a strategic direction for CAPE over the next three years.” CAPE’s strategic priorities for the next three years are: wellbeing economy, toxics, the climate crisis, nature, equity and justice, and organizational capacity.

The organization’s 2021-2022 Annual Report was also presented to members and staff in attendance at the annual general meeting.