Rural doctors: making a commitment to care through personal connections and flexibility

Written by Toni Lavigne-Conway | Special to the Valley Gazette

Those of us who live here know that rural communities have unique characteristics. Living and working in small towns calls for an understanding and acceptance of a distinctive way of life and while this certainly applies to all of us as residents, it has never been more important than now to have health care professionals, especially our family doctors, embrace life in a small town.

With family medicine residency placements in Canada increasing each year, notably in the rural areas, having new physicians make the decision to choose to practise in communities like ours is critical to our existence and economic prosperity.

In recognition of National Doctor’s Day on March 30, I sat down for an enjoyable and enlightening conversation with one of community physicians, Dr. Daniel Ostapowicz, and chatted about what it’s like being a rural physician and why he and his family are enjoying the lifestyle.

“Even though it was never part of the plan my wife Teresa and I had for where we would practise, we love it here, and at the moment, it’s where we’re meant to be. I can’t imagine myself working anywhere else,” said Daniel.

The road to becoming a doctor and eventually living in Barry’s Bay began in his hometown of Edmonton, where his parents settled after emigrating from Poland.

Daniel says he didn’t have an earth-shattering moment or life experience that motivated his decision to pursue medicine as a career. He did find, however, that he enjoyed biology and the sciences in high school, so while his parents thought he would look to a future in other areas, he applied for a health science program for post-secondary education, graduating with a Bachelor of Biological Science degree at the University of Alberta. With the goal of becoming a doctor, he applied to medical school in Poland after he, like so many other students, was unable to get into Canadian schools.

His placement there would turn out to be a double bonus for Daniel, as it is where he met his future wife Teresa, a fellow Canadian with Polish roots and who was also studying medicine.

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