In the Spotlight | MATTHEW CHOW

May 2024

Meet Dr. Matthew Chow, a Clinical Instructor and Specialist in Child and Youth Mental Health who currently serves as the Chief Mental Health Officer at TELUS Health. Previously, he served as President of Doctors of BC from 2020 to 2021.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I am Chief Mental Health Officer at TELUS Health, Canada’s largest digital health company. A little-known fact is that TELUS Health now has one of the world’s largest mental health workforces, touching the lives of tens of millions around the globe. I trained in child and adolescent psychiatry at UBC, and served as president of Doctors of BC during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21.

What community do you work in?

Vancouver is technically my home base, but since my team and colleagues are located all around the world I also travel nationally and internationally about once a month.

Can you share what a typical work day looks like for you?

On a typical day last week, I had virtual meetings with team members across the country, recorded a mental health podcast with one of Canada’s largest employers, provided clinical feedback to our product development group, and listened to a pitch by a technology startup.

What has surprised you about psychiatry along the way? Are there things you’ve either encountered or learned that you would not have expected?

I never could have anticipated all the unique opportunities that my training in psychiatry would afford me. I have met the former president of the World Bank, worked with public health officials during the COVID-19 pandemic, shared a meal with the premier, contributed to family medicine reform in BC, and had my opinions published in national newspapers. My psychiatric training put me in a unique position to make the most out of these experiences, while also giving me the skills to make a difference to the people I am privileged to meet.

What excites you about the future of your field?

Artificial intelligence is going to revolutionize our field. We are going to see an explosion in A.I. assisted therapies, A.I. assisted diagnostics, A.I. assisted clinical guidance… And there is potential to make a serious dent in global health inequality— for example, there are many places in the world where there is only one psychiatrist for more than a million people. A.I. is going to make it possible to support community health workers to make mental health diagnoses and prescribe treatment. Who knows, maybe we’ll finally be able to ‘axe the fax’ and get rid of our outdated fax machines too? One can dream.

What is an important piece of advice you can share with junior colleagues and/or residents, or some considering a career in psychiatry?

Your career is what you make of it, not what people make of you. If there is an opportunity that excites you but you’re afraid to take that first step, make a giant leap instead. Go all in. You’re more likely to regret a missed opportunity than taking a risk.

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to? 

Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke, The Myth of Normal by Gabor Mate, Stop Reading the News by Rolf Dobelli, Thank you for Being Late by Thomas Friedman, Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari… trying to make sense of the world we live in and where we’re headed.