Angela Carol

Physician at Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre

Dr. Angela Carol is a lead physician at the Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre, with experience in treating chronic illnesses, particularly chronic pain, mental illness and addiction.

Angela’s background as a social worker and child and youth worker made her want to advocate for vulnerable populations, and compelled her to address the determinants of health for patients with addictions, mental illness and chronic pain.

Angela Carol is also an educator. She supports and guides a student-run health care clinic within her Community Health Centre in Hamilton’s Code Red Zone, where the life expectancy of the population is twenty years less than elsewhere in the city.

She helped create knowledge translation education models, tools for prescribers and educators, and has functioned as an informed source on opioids and pain management for many committees.

Angela Carol is a proponent of harm reduction strategies like opioid replacement therapy, safer opioid supply, distribution of naloxone, safe needle exchange, and more educated and effective opioid prescribing.

Angela helped develop Canada’s first guideline on the Safe and Effective Prescribing of Opioids. She worked with key stakeholders to support prescribers in their practices across Canada, including the National Opioid Use Guideline Group (NOUGG), which was composed of all the Medical Regulatory Authorities in Canada and supported by the Canadian Federation (FMRAC).

Angela is presently the Co-Chair of the Canadian Pain Care Forum and a member of the National Faculty on Patient and Public Education for the Michael DeGroote National Pain Centre. She works closely with key stakeholders to support the best practices in chronic pain management.

Dr. Angela Carol serves on the Board of Directors with the Medical Legal Society, is a member of Health Canada’s Expert Advisory Group for Safer Opioid Supply, and supports the ICRC, physician’s Change of Scope in practice and registration.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

I was the second eldest of 9 and always a caring, compassionate child. I was the kid who carried bandaids and kleenex just in case someone needed one. I was also always keenly interested in science.

My initial career path was to become a social worker and child and youth worker. While I felt useful in those roles, I also felt the desire to help people more directly. I kept seeing the end results of illness and lack of care, the unravelling of lives that impacted everyone around them.
I saw an opportunity to help people living in poverty, and with challenges like addiction, become more proactive in their lives. I wanted to help empower them with quality medical care and genuine understanding of their struggles. I was a mature adult when I decided to completely pivot my career. The prospect was intimidating at the time, but looking back, I cannot imagine my life without studying medicine. I guess you could say that I listened to that inner voice, even though it was inconvenient and presented challenges. I mean, I applied to medical school when nearly all other students were significantly younger than me.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My days are busy and I have to be cognizant to find time to focus on myself for a while before I go into the clinic. I wake up around 5:30 a.m. and do yoga, as well as some aerobic exercise before I drink my coffee and have a fruit smoothie. My commute isn’t too bad and during that time I typically listen to a podcast. I take a couple of deep breaths before I enter the clinic and focus my thoughts on bringing my best self and doing the best I possibly can–for both patients and staff.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Consistent effort, mainly. I view diligence and resilience as the necessary ingredients for any kind of success.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I feel that, incrementally, society is opening up to understanding that mental and physical wellness is possible and that disease is not some sort of flaw of character. I am encouraged to see greater support from policy development and government support as well as from families and friends of those who are struggling.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Collaboration. You can’t get anywhere useful if you try to go alone.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Do not doubt your gifts and the contributions you can make to the world. Quit letting other people define you; instead, define yourself.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

It is never the end unless it is a happy ending….there is hope!!!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

No matter how hectic my day is, I try to get 20 minutes of sunshine whenever possible. I also like to catch either a sunrise or a sunset: this reminds me that every day is a gift

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Well, it is a clinic in a poverty-ridden area. But our patient numbers have grown over the years by providing quality, judgement-free care to those who need it. It is pretty simple, really: I treat everyone like a valued human being, because they are.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

It was a tough pill to swallow, but I had to accept when I was a child and youth worker, a social worker and now as a physician, that my job is to empower, guide, facilitate, advocate and assist, but the heavy lifting has to be done by the patient.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

As society begins to accept that addiction is something normal and human and not taboo, there will be greater willingness for people to seek and accept treatment and resources. Anything along the lines of development and healing together should increase in demand for wellness.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Every time I buy tickets to a live theatre performance, I view that as money well spent.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Todoist allows me to stay calm, focused and more productive.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction by Maia Szalavitz. The author sources over 25 years of research and science to explore antiquated definitions of addiction and how addiction could more accurately be perceived as different types of learning disorders.

What is your favorite quote?

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”— Albert Einstein

Key Learnings:

  • Sometimes we have to lean into discomfort for a while in order to create the lives we want to live.
  • Making a difference matters most to me.
  • I’m increasingly grateful to my team for the quality of care we are able to provide and the way we always learn from each other.