Dr. Stephen Cashman

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When I started medical school I knew I wanted to do something complicated and technical in a big city – be an oncologist or be a surgeon.  Definitely not something boring, simple, and easy like family medicine!  And through my first few years I saw the way many of the academic specialists who taught so much of our curriculum were careful not to express their somewhat patronizing views towards family doctors.  Some of them certainly had genuine respect for their colleagues, but others you could tell were watching their words, careful not to say “so easy even a family doctor could manage this” or “just a family doctor.”

At the end of first year a week working on a northern reserve and seeing the incredibly diverse and complex care provided to a deeply under resourced community by family doctors made me have some second thoughts.  This didn’t look very boring, simple, or easy.  In fact, it looked like complicated full spectrum medicine covering everything from emergency room care to psychiatry to outpatient management of complicated medical conditions.  Maybe family medicine wasn’t so boring after all?

Making my way through clerkship showed me that every specialty had it’s interesting pieces and I struggled to decide “what would I never want to do again.”  What was I going to cut out when I made my choice?  Would I give up inpatient medicine?  Would I give up emergency?  Delivering babies?  Not an easy choice to make.  My time rotating through a rural family medicine rotation and my electives in Manitoba and further afield gave me the answer.  I would give up nothing.

I am happy to be nearing the end of my residency program in northern and remote family medicine with the University of Manitoba.  I have had a chance to see the kind and friendly belugas that throng around Churchill in the summers, and will shortly be leaving for Yellowknife to enjoy medicine under the northern lights.  I am looking forward to a career where I can be whatever I want to be – whether I want to do emergency, anesthesia, obstetrics, hospital medicine, I can look forward to opening doors rather than closing them, despite being just a family doctor.

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