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In Nova Scotia physicians and communities work together for better health care

The Clare Health Centre; Clare Health Centre staff (front, L to R): Dr. Giselle Dugas, Dr. Michelle Dow, Dr. Erica Lasher (resident); (back, L to R): Dr. Alain Blinn; Georg MacDonald, NP; Dr. Courtney Mazeroll

When it comes to physician recruitment and retention, the municipality of Clare, on Nova Scotia’s Acadian shore, has a recipe for success.

The five family physicians working in the community were born and raised in the area and returned home to practice. Three of these physicians are young graduates who have returned to their hometown in the last five years.

Dr. Courtney Mazeroll is one of those young physicians. From her perspective as a medical student and physician, a number of factors contribute to her community’s success in recruiting physicians, including education, local interest, and financial and structural support from the municipality.

Students from Clare can complete their undergraduate studies and medical education in French. Pre-medical education is available in their hometown at the Université Ste. Anne, the only Francophone university in the province. They can also undertake their medical studies in French at three Quebec universities (Université de Sherbrooke, Université  Laval and Université de Montréal), where three seats are reserved for French-speaking Nova Scotians.

Local physicians, community members and government are all actively engaged in physician recruitment and they excel at keeping in touch with students. Dr. Mazeroll and her fellow students received many emails and telephone calls from home.

“Although we were away for six years completing our medical studies, it was very obvious that people in our hometown had not forgotten us,” says Dr. Mazeroll, who was recruited two years ago.

“More than once, doctor recruitment committee representatives made the trip all the way to Quebec to have supper with us and chat about what was going on with each of us. We never left empty-handed either – they gave us little gifts to remind us of home or tools to help with our studies,” she adds.

Dr. Mazeroll credits the Municipality of Clare with helping her decide to return. The municipality offered financial support to returning physicians and, more importantly, built a new medical centre.

The Clare Health Centre, located in Meteghan Centre, was completed in May 2008. Over the two-year planning process, the construction committee consulted with physicians and local businesses, and held public meetings. Committee members also visited other health centres in Atlantic Canada to learn from their experiences.

The centre is a turn-key operation that allows physicians to focus on caring for their patients rather than on administration. Physicians, allied health professionals, and health services such as blood collection, public health and addiction services are located within the same building, allowing for truly collaborative care.

“I was very interested by the fact that I would be practising in a group setting, with other new physicians who had taken the same academic path, as well as some more experienced ones with different backgrounds,” says Dr. Mazeroll.

“I knew that if I had any questions or needed help that it was only a short walk down the hall to find it,” she adds.

Over the past year the Clare physicians have started mentoring residents, allowing them to return home to study and work alongside local doctors while doing their training.

“I feel I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in and serve the community where I grew up,” says Dr. Mazeroll.

Do you know a doctor that goes above and beyond the call of duty to help improve patient care in Nova Scotia? Add your story to the Story Map today!

This story originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of doctorsNS magazine.