Anthea Girdwood and Emilie Beyls have much in common.
Both were raised in Trent Hills, Girdwood in Havelock and Beyls in Hastings. Both graduates of Campbellford District High School, they have a shared interest in medicine. As part of their medical education and their journey to becoming licensed doctors, they each have benefitted from the experience of physicians and other health care professions at Campbellford Memorial Hospital. Gratefully, both credit this experience for giving them a solid beginning as well as an appreciation for the benefits of rural health care and the significance of physician/patient relationships.
For many years, Campbellford Memorial Hospital has welcomed medical residents and students like Girdwood and Beyls to experience a wide variety of multiple care settings: family medicine, Emergency Room (ER) and the Operating Room (OR). The hospital has a credible list of Family Medicine Preceptors and students benefit from the experience of Dr. Robert Henderson, Dr. Paul Williams, Dr. Celeste Collins, and Dr. Brett Jamieson of the Trent Hills Family Health Team. Dr. Henderson has been helping educate the next generation of family physicians for over 25 years. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto and is the recipient of a CCFP Award of Excellence for his work in teaching. Dr. Williams and Dr. Collins also have faculty appointments with the University of Toronto. Dr. Collins was recently selected as the recipient of the 2014-15 Holister King Teaching Practices Preceptor Award from the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Toronto. Preceptor duties are shared between these physicians.
“The biggest difference between training here versus an urban setting is that I actually know my patients. I am really invested in the community and the people who live here and I am much more aware of how the results of my care may impact someone. I am connected to them because I grew up in this community and I am conscientious of the level of care I provided them,” explains Girdwood.
As of June 1, Girdwood is currently doing a six-week core rotation in Family Medicine at CMH through the Rural Ontario Medicine Program (ROMP). She is in year three of a four year program in Medical School at the University of Ottawa. The Family Medicine core rotation is the seventh of eight core rotations she is required to complete. Other rotations have included ER, Obstetrics, Surgery and Psychiatry. She notes that Trent Hills Physician Recruiter Laurie Smith did an excellent job of setting up a fulsome program for her Family Medicine core rotation representing everything that rural medicine can be including Emergency Room, assisting in the Operating Room, doing nursing home visits and other out-patient clinics.
She attributes a semester high school co-op at the hospital in radiology at CMH as her first real exposure to medicine. “I really valued my experience with Dr. Raphael and his wonderful team as many rural students don’t get a lot of exposure to rural medicine before they begin their education. Having this excellent first experience here made me want to come back when I had a more fulsome tool belt of medical education to draw upon,” Girdwood adds.
“Family medicine is much more about the whole person. Family medicine is challenging and personally motivating and much more integrated than other areas of medical specialization. For example, if you were treating a diabetic patient, as their family doctor you would likely counsel them on healthy food choices while also being aware of the healthy food choices that are available in the community or their ability to purchase healthy food. This is an approach to care that you can’t learn in a classroom,” she explains.
Girdwood’s connection to the Trent Hills community has also ensured that she is well-positioned to advocate for the needs of rural medical students in her new role as President-Elect of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. “With annual tuition at $25,000, Ontario is the most expensive province to get a medical education. Rural medical students typically have to take on more medical education debt and the cost of education is often a barrier for rural students. According to results from a National Physician Survey, there is a decreasing number of physicians with a rural or small town background. Because of my background, I can apply a rural lens to advocacy and policy development. When you come from a community like this, you will always value the importance of rural medicine. I feel really privileged to be able to advocate for rural students and rural medicine,” she explains. Her wish is that more medical students have the rich rural medical experience offered up in Trent Hills so they could appreciate the opportunities that rural hospital teams can provide.
“It’s exciting to come back to Trent Hills to practice medicine. I am impressed and thrilled with the caliber of medicine delivered here. The things that I am seeing and experiencing in the Emergency Room and the Operating Room are really impressive for a small hospital. At the Trent Hills Family Health Team you have multiple physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, physiotherapists and a host of intraprofessional team members providing an unbelievably wide and comprehensive scope of services. I feel very fortunate to practice in such a robust team,” Girdwood says.
Girdwood’s sentiments are shared by Dr. Emilie Beyls. Dr. Beyls’ medical education has just concluded and she has begun a Family Medicine Residency in Barrie through the University of Toronto. “I am going to become a family physician and I will be finished my residency in two years,” she explains.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that her Grade 8 yearbook reads: ‘wants to be a doctor.’ “I wanted to pick a career that made a difference. Living where I live and some of my early experiences at the hospital validated my decision to enter medicine. I know this will be a career that keeps me engaged long-term,” Dr. Beyls explains.
Her interest in medicine was also fueled by a number of experiences at Campbellford Memorial Hospital, including serving as a hospital volunteer while she completed her Life Sciences undergraduate degree at Queen’s University. “I worked at the front desk, visited with patients and helped with paperwork to support specialist clinics,” she says, adding: “I returned to the hospital in 2013 for a month as part of my medical Clerkship, giving me exposure to the Family medicine clinic, the Emergency Room, Operating Room and working as a hospitalist.”
“Family physicians have a unique role in a rural community like Campbellford. Here, they are involved in every aspect of the medical care available. This is the kind of physician that I aspire to be and I know I would get great experience coming back to Trent Hills in this role,” she says.
“There is a much more holistic approach to patient care here. We look at the overall picture of a patient in a much broader way than any other specialty of practice. By starting here, I learned very quickly to look at the patient rather than focusing on a particular symptom or treatment. I tried to incorporate that patient-centred approach as I moved through medical school – looking beyond the diagnosis to what the patient experiences when they leave the hospital and return to the community,” Dr. Beyls explains.
Given Dr. Beyls’ love of the Trent Hills community and rural medicine, there is a good possibility that she will return in the future. “Rural medicine gives me everything I want. I enjoy the rural lifestyle and it is hard to replicate. There is a diversity of practice including family medicine, ER, hospitalist, assisting in the OR – and I love the variety that is offered.”
Like Girdwood, Dr. Beyls recommends Campbellford Memorial Hospital to other medical students because “you witness and learn from patient interactions with excellent, caring health care professionals. The size of the hospital creates an atmosphere that is such a pleasure to work in. The comradery among everyone is unparelleled and it makes it such a desirable place to work. The care is much more personalized and you get to know patients on another level – this patient-centred care is the best learning experience that you can get from being in a place like this.”
“Anthea Girdwood and Emilie Beyls are a great example of what’s possible with our physician recruitment program,” notes Laurie Smith, adding: “And knowing that their interest in medicine took root in Trent Hills makes us proud of their home grown talent and experience. We wish them all the best in their careers.”