Northern physicians reflect on National Doctor’s Day

Doctor Stephen Cooper was pushed to become a physician in his younger years. His father was a radiologist in British Columbia and while he resisted the profession initially “a combination of being good at science and liking to help people. Medicine seemed to be a good choice and then when I got it in my head I had to do it.”

Dr.Cooper was the Chief of Staff at Manitoulin Health Centre on Manitoulin Island for 13 years but decided to step down from the role in 2020. Now, he’s focusing on his students at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and his work as the District 9 chair of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).

On May 1every year the OMA invites people across the province to show their appreciation for doctors in their communities. This year people are being encouraged to share on social media using the hashtag #DoctorsDay2021, shining a light with phones, flashlights or candles at 9 p.m. for five minutes and pledging their support for their local doctors at doctorsday.ca

“I just want to thank my colleagues so much across the north about the work there are doing to support their patients in the community,” said Cooper.

Cooper’s colleague, Dr. Maurianne Reade, originally moved to Manitoulin Island with plans of only staying for a 6 month locum position. That was almost 20 years ago. She says according to recent data the need for doctors especially in the north is on the rise “we know that up to 40 to 50 percent of physicians in rural northern Ontario are considering retirement in the next 5 years,” says Reade.

Reade says she realizes there are barriers to practicing in rural communities but she says there is also many rewards.

“Full comprehensive care so we do emergency work, office work, inpatient care, we do house calls. In some communities we do obstetrics as well. Some people can maybe be intimidated by that but I would say it’s definitely worth the reward,” she said.

She adds another positive aspect is the close relationships doctors are able to build within the community.

“I can’t think of how many times during the pandemic that when I’ve been on a phone visit with my patients that I’ve known over the years that they’re also checking in on how I’m doing and I really value that as well.”

According to the OMA, every day, Ontario’s doctors treat and care for more than 340,000 patients across the province. It adds that as front-line heroes battle the third wave of covid-19, doctors need our support more than ever.