Dialogue Volume 15, Issue 2 2019 - Page 20

COUNCIL AWARD I’ve learned that everyone has their own unique story and that you can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to elder care. What strikes you as the most important aspect of an impactful rural medicine? I think rural medicine uniquely positions physicians to positively influence not only our individual patient needs, but also the wider medical community. If you’re doing it right, you immediately become part of the whole medical landscape. You’re not only seeing patients in your practice and in the hospital, but you’re also connected with the hospital administration, local LHINs, CCACs and broader agencies to ensure the whole system is work- ing together in quality, community care. Obviously, we are lacking in the services available in larger centres, and that makes it even more crucial for rural doctors to get involved in the decision-making that shapes how we deliver services in our communities. So you attend regional meetings, fundraise, and develop relationships with health administrators, allied health professionals and agencies. If you don’t get involved, you may not like how things turn out.   Women now make up 54% of family physicians, but it was a different story when you went to medical school. Yes it was. In the mid-70s there certainly weren’t as many women in medicine. My first year at Western coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of women enrolled in the medical school. There’s no doubt that we rocked the old, established order. When I started to work, I took over the practice of a much-loved, older male family physician in Teeswater, a small rural village. I was the first female doctor to set up practice in the com- munity. Suffice it to say, my arrival stoked a bit of local interest and skepticism. But, to be honest, it didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off and even the most elderly patients soon accepted me. Interestingly, I was inundated 20 DIALOGUE ISSUE 2, 2019 with female patients who were new to the practice. They wanted to talk to a female professional about birth con- trol, gynecological issues, and so on. Clearly, there had been a need for someone like me for a long time. What has having a significant number of older patients in your practice taught you? I’ve learned that everyone has their own unique story and that you can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to elder care. Older patients are dealing with multiple comorbidities and needs that are not always apparent. So, you have to sit down with each patient and each family to find out what’s important to them and the best way to help. One patient of mine was a delightful old Irish gentleman who had many medical problems and was dying over a couple of years. He would often come to my office and I was never sure exactly of what he wanted. In the end, I real- ized he just wanted to talk of philosophy and the mean- ing of life. From then on, we always booked his appoint- ments at the end of the day so we could have unrushed chats. As you look back on your career, what are you most proud of? I’m gratified for the wonderful relationships built with patients over the years. It’s a privilege to watch patients and their families grow and to help them through chal- lenges. I’m proud to have had a lead role in the estab- lishment of the Wingham hospital’s oncology program and improving the inpatient referrals process from rural Ontario to London. But I’m most proud of the medical system we’ve created in South Bruce/North Huron with the hospitals, family health teams and allied health work- ing together to provide coordinated and comprehensive care in our community. MD