Alberta Rural Physician Action Plan
Health
Workforce
for Alberta

June 1, 2016 • Written in Community Support Practicing Physicians 0 Comments

Tagged with Physician attraction Physician education Physician recruitment Rural Alberta North Rural medicine Sundre • Written by Jonathan Koch

There was a time when life in the big city appealed to Robert Warren. Born and raised in Calgary, Rob is the son of a successful city lawyer, who hoped to follow his father’s footsteps into the courtroom.

While attending law school at the University of Alberta, Warren met his future wife—a medical student named Michelle. Soon he was a husband, father, and a successful solicitor at law practices in Edmonton and Calgary. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, except for one thing: Being a big city lawyer was no longer part of the plan.

“Being a lawyer in a downtown law office is a very demanding job, and it has a high burn-out rate,” explains Warren. “It’s a very fulfilling job, but it's not the kind of job that's compatible with having a lot of other things going on in your life. And when you're in the middle of it, it’s sometimes hard to see that.”

Looking for a change of pace, the Warrens moved to Sundre in 1999 following the completion of Michelle’s residency, where Rob says they found a community that moved at the pace they did.

“It's a cliché, but it’s true, the small town lifestyle is still a very traditional lifestyle that has some of those cowboy values that if your neighbour needs help, you drop what you're doing, and you go to help,” says Warren.  “You’re part of a bigger community, you’re more than your job - you’re a person, and a father, and a spouse, and a neighbour, and that spoke to both Michelle and I.”

Leaving law behind, Rob stayed at home with the kids, while Michelle grew her practice in Sundre. Giving themselves six months to see if the community was the right fit, the couple soon bought a home, and have been there ever since.

When it became time for the kids to go to school, Rob decided rural medicine offered him a fulfilling way to contribute to the community. He applied and was accepted in the University of Calgary faculty of medicine in 2006, while at the same time forging a relationship with RPAP that endures to this day.

Warren says RPAP provided him with “invaluable support” throughout his training, starting with tuition support from an RPAP Rural Medical School Bursary, and continuing through the RPAP-sponsored Rural Alberta North (RAN) residency-training program in Red Deer. 

“It’s scary and intimidating to contemplate entering a job like this,” adds Warren. “Being a rural doc is not easy, and very different from urban family medicine, and I would not have been ready to practice in this sort of environment without RPAP's programming and support.”

A practising physician since 2011, and co-owner, with Michelle, of Sundre’s Moose and Squirrel Medical Clinic since 2013, Warren says RPAP remains “a valuable ally”, providing recruitment support, and educational initiatives for practising and future physicians. His involvement with RPAP continues today as an Alberta Medical Association representative on the RPAP Board of Directors, and through his involvement with medical students and the RAN and Rural Alberta South (RAS) residency programs.

“We find teaching very rewarding—it’s energizing to work with young intelligent people, who want to so the same kind of job that you do, but also because we are proud of what we've got here in Sundre,” Warren adds. “We want to share that and show it off to people who might be looking for a place that fits well for them."

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