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A vital part of our health-care system 

On this International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the female physicians who are such an important part of our health-care system.

A 2022 study conducted by Doctors Nova Scotia showed that female and gender-diverse physicians outnumber their male counterparts – in fact, in the case of younger physicians who’ve been in practice for 15 years or less, women physicians outnumber men by three to one. Female doctors practise family medicine and all other specialties. Whether they live in urban and rural areas, they play a pivotal role in their communities, in research and in medical education.

In Nova Scotia, we are lucky to have women physicians from across our country and around the world providing care to us and our families.

Here are a few of the women making a difference to health care in our province:

Dr. Abir Hussein – Family physician, Yarmouth
Born in Kuwait and trained in Cairo, Dr. Abir Hussein’s journey to her role as a family practitioner in Yarmouth involved moving to Canada, passing her Canadian certification exams, finding employment and settling her growing young family in Yarmouth – a daunting list. Now, Dr. Hussein works at Ocean View Family practice, provides in-patient care at Yarmouth Regional Hospital, is postgraduate site director and a preceptor with the Southwest Nova physician training program, mentoring family medicine residents during their two-year rotation at her clinic. “It’s absolutely vital for any young or new physician to feel comfortable and confident in opening a practice. They need to know that there’s a support system around them.”

Dr. Sabina Abidi – Psychiatrist, Halifax
Dalhousie-trained psychiatrist Dr. Sabina Abidi heads the IWK Youth Psychosis Program, is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Dalhousie Medical School and is a practising clinician and researcher. She works with clients aged as young as three and into their late teens, and places an emphasis on building durable relationships with her patients, whether that means meeting in her office or in a local coffee shop. “The traditional doctor-patient relationship that we’re used to doesn’t necessarily meet kids where they are at – and meeting kids where they are at is key to improving outcomes.”

Dr. Sue Atkinson – Family physician, Halifax
For nearly 30 years, Dr. Sue Atkinson has been a beacon in Nova Scotia’s 2SLGBTQ+ community and a champion for her patients. Since 1992, she has been delivering care to queer and gender-diverse individuals at the Halifax Sexual Health Centre (HSHC), an inclusive, pro-choice clinic with a focus on youth, reproductive and gender-diverse care. Dr. Atkinson and her colleagues approach sex and sexuality in a non-judgemental way. Caring for gender-diverse patients starts with an unbiased understanding of their unique needs. Fundamentally, it’s about respecting that a person knows their own identity and gender – even if their appearance might not match their perceived gender. “People who identify as women are actual women, and people who identify as men are actual men,” said Dr. Atkinson.

Dr. Onyebuchi “Stephanie” Ofoegbu – Family physician, New Waterford
New Waterford–based family physician Dr. Onyebuchi “Stephanie” Ofoegbu came to Nova Scotia from Nigeria, where she trained as a family physician, by way of the UK, where she completed a master’s degree in public health, and a stint in Toronto, where she worked as a resource coordinator for the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange while studying for her Canadian licensing exams. Now, she’s one of six family physicians providing care at the New Waterford Collaborative Practice in Cape Breton. “When patients say ‘thank you’…it reminds me of why I wanted to be a doctor in the first place – I wanted to help.”

Dr. Tania Sullivan – Emergency physician, Antigonish
In addition to her work as an emergency physician at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, Dr. Tania Sullivan also pioneered a revolutionary simulation program at the site. The idea came to after years of night shifts. “Overnight, you’re the only physician and you’re responsible for all the emergencies in the hospital,” said Dr. Sullivan. “I found myself going to code blues [when a patient is found without a pulse] and thinking, I wish we could go through that again to make it better.” With that in mind, Dr. Sullivan and four nursing colleagues started doing practice codes in different units of the hospital. “We wanted to foster a culture of growth and learning,” she said.

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