When I first began my medical journey, my thoughts, like many others, was that Family Medicine was “just” Family Medicine. I am so happy that I was wrong. Family Medicine, as I learned, is way more than that, it is the gatekeeper to the world of medicine. The Gandalf to Middle-Earth, the Yoda to the Force. Those who train in family medicine, need to know all, from the acute to the chronic, from the short term to the long term issues. While there are areas that we each are better at, and others where we need help, our skills span subjects, and our hands touch many hearts.
I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to work in both rural and urban settings, from Hall Beach, Nunavut, to Waterloo, Ontario. I helped to run the emergency room overnight in Nunavut as a PGY2, coordinating medevacs with my preceptor for the entire eastern half of the territory, to being a locum on Manitoulin Island as my first job post-residency. I currently practice in a clinic in Waterloo where I am an “IT guy”, business co-owner, and manager. I can tell you that all of these experiences have their advantages, in different ways, and the amount of care you provide to patients, families, and communities is huge. As a family physician, you are the Babelfish for radiology reports; you are the Sherlock Holmes to the bloodwork; you are the compassionate diary upon which patients vent their psychosocial and psychiatric issues. You are also the one who holds the hands of patients as they go through divorces, chemo, or even a pregnancy, telling them everything will be ok. You help patients quit smoking and alcohol, and share in the joy in their success, and help pick them up when they have fallen. Just the other day, I had to let someone know that their cancer of last year, the one that had not shown up on repeat scans, has recurred metastatically. In another case, I was part of a team of family doctors in a rural area, that had to figure out the logistics of physician-assisted suicide in our low-resourced community. While we may be “just” family doctors, we are justifiably the most diverse, well-versed, group of physicians who are trained to deal with just about everything with everyone. The benefit of it all is that at the end of the day, you can tell your patients to “Live long and prosper”, and they’ll just roll their eyes knowing you’re a complete geek.