The Alberta Rural Physician Award of Distinction is truly something to behold.
Constructed of sandstone and etched glass, the award has been presented to a dozen distinguished rural Alberta physicians since the program’s inception in 2002.
The story behind the award that it’s a celebration of the ‘unsung heroes’ who provide Alberta rural communities with outstanding medical services, and who make huge contributions to medical practice and their communities. However, it’s within the appendix that you’ll learn a little bit about Larry Samoil.
The sponsor of the RPAP Rural Physician Award owes his involvement in the program, in large part, to a life-saving intervention by a rural physician over 50 years ago.
“I grew up in a rural area just outside of Vegreville, and when I was just starting Grade 12, I had a pain in my side… I had acute appendicitis,” explains Samoil, who now lives on Vancouver Island.
Samoil was in the operating room when his appendix ruptured mid-way through the procedure. Pumped full of penicillin, Samoil slipped into an unconscious state, but survived. Emerging 48 hours later, the Grade 12 student was minus an appendix, but full of enduring gratitude for his surgeon, Dr. Jan Stefancik, and the staff at Vegreville's St. Joseph’s General Hospital.
Over the next 50 years, Larry built successful careers in telecom and promotional products, but never forgot the operation, or the physician who saved his life. So when Samoil’s company, GRM Business Services, was contracted by RPAP 35 years later to create an award honouring rural physicians, sponsoring it seemed like the right thing to do.
“I brought up the story when we were in the war room with David Kay trying to put it all together,” Samoil adds. “It’s my little contribution to how important it is to us, not just individually, but as a society, to make our world a little bit better.”
“Big or small, we should try to put something back wherever we can - If we all do a little bit, it ends up being a lot collectively.”