Dr. Clarence Clottey first began his medical training back in Ghana before immigrating to North America. His dream to work in medicine began at a young age, originally wanting to be a military doctor. In 1991 he received his Masters of Public Health from Harvard University and moved to Canada to be a Medical Officer of Health in Saskatchewan during the mid 1990s. During his years as an MoH, he fought to ban smoking in public places. He then moved to Ontario to become the Director of the diabetes program for Health Canada.
Dr. Clarence Clottey also worked as Scientific Director for the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Chronic Disease Policy to set up a Policy Observatory for Chronic Diseases in collaboration with Brazil, Costa Rica, and Canada.
In 2009, Dr. Clarence Clottey received his certification in Family Medicine from the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CCFP), and went on to specialize as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada (FRCPC) in Public Health and Preventive Medicine. After 2010 he began working as a family physician and a public health and preventive medicine specialist.
Dr. Clarence Clottey can speak six different languages, including English, Portuguese, French, and three African languages. Born in Ghana, West Africa, and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this proud Christian family man currently lives in Ontario with his wife and has two grown-up children. He spends his free time visiting his friends, going to church and watching CNN and WWE.
Why did you choose to become a doctor?
It was the idea that one could be a physician who could help heal people, could help bring people out of pain and suffering. It was something that always interested me when I was young. My dream was once to be a military doctor, to wear a uniform and treat people who had been on the battlefield. And by the grace of God, I had the gift of excelling academically, and the doors opened for me.
What area do you specialize in?
The two areas I specialize in are public health and preventative medicine.
The approach to public health is to deal with anything that is affecting the health of everybody. Even something like different types of food available to a community can affect their health, which makes nutrition a part of public health. For example, if there is an increase in diabetes in a community, people are probably not exercising enough and may be eating bad food. One way to address this is to lower the price of healthy foods and increase the prices of junk food, this way the community is more likely to switch to a healthier diet. Another part of public health is dealing with infectious diseases. For example, the influenza virus is spread from person to person very quickly. You have to approach it by finding ways to immunize the whole population so you can control the virus. So public health is about trying to deal with the health of the entire population at the same time.
Preventative medicine is related to public health in the sense that we focus on individual things that people can do to prevent disease. For example, if we know people are ingesting a lot of salt, or there is an increase in high blood pressure, we would want to do research to determine what we can do to prevent the disease and its complications. Essentially with preventative medicine, we don’t have to wait for people to be sick before we try to treat them and prevent disease. Common forms of preventative medicine are early screenings for cancer, physical exams, vaccinations, and even general blood tests to check for anything out of place.
So the discipline of Preventative Medicine & Public Health is one of the specialties of the Royal College of Physicians. A typical job for a specialist in Preventative Medicine & Public Health is, for example, to be a medical officer of health, and to be in charge of public health departments.
What does your daily routine look like?
I usually start work around 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. and I spend my day as a family physician seeing to my patients and providing counselling to anyone who needs it. Then I sit down and try to do some paperwork before I leave work between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., depending on the day. Also depending on the day, I either go to church or head home and watch WWE. Sometimes I go to the gym. I used to play a lot of volleyball before I got injured. It is one of my passions.
What do you love about your job?
I think it’s the opportunity to reach people, to help those who truly need it. To be able to provide them with the best possible care and education to improve their health. I love seeing that they feel motivated and empowered to improve their health. Also, whenever I have the opportunity to speak with different groups and communities on matters that pertain to their health and their lives, I love when I hear feedback that they were moved or touched by the importance of what I shared. Those two things together are what I love most about my job.
What would you consider to be the greatest accomplishment in your career?
It’s hard to pin point only one specific accomplishment. I am proud of the work I did in Saskatoon as a tireless advocate, in the mid 1990s, to ban smoking in public places when it was not common in Canada. Also, as an international medical graduate, to obtain not just one but two medical specialty designations as well as the experience to work at federal, provincial and municipal levels in public health in Canada.
Tell our readers about some of your volunteer activities.
I often volunteer my time to speak at local community groups, church groups, and at local and national associations on all matters of public health and to encourage people to live healthy lifestyles. I never turn down the opportunity to speak and mentor young black men about what they will face in life given the challenges that I have been through myself because of the colour of my skin. I’ve also spoken to communities here and even back in Ghana about this as well.
I also contribute to different charities. However, I like to be modest and discreet about any good works that I do.
What do you do in order to mentally separate yourself from your work?
I pray and I read the Bible as much as I can. I visit my friends often, watch movies, and I consume a lot of news, particularly CNN. I enjoy all genres of music and like dancing. I also sing in church on Sundays. I also happen to enjoy watching WWE wrestling. It’s the one time I can suspend my disbelief and just go along with the storyline and enjoy it. And whenever I can, I travel.
As you move forward with your career in International and Public Health, what are you hoping to achieve?
I hope to continue my work. There are still a lot of people who are hurting and unhealthy. We have many new health challenges coming up, with poverty, ignorance, and all of the misinformation out there on the internet on every topic you can think of. I’m particularly struck by how much misinformation goes on in this era of the Internet.
My hope is to contribute in a small way to enlightening people on the real, objective, well-rounded science behind medicine, health, and public health. For example, when it comes to things like the influenza vaccine it brings up so much emotion in people, the same people who would be willing to take any other vaccine other than the influenza vaccine. As soon as you mention the flu shot, they say, “oh, I don’t take the flu shot. It made me sick once.” There is so much misinformation out there that causes people to adopt things that are inaccurate.
So essentially that crusade of trying to improve public health is continuous, a work in progress, and I hope I can leave this world a little bit better off, in whichever little corner that I can, and for any additional person I can help. It will be my way of contributing to this life.
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