When promoting rural family medicine, never underestimate the importance of pizza.
For Dr. Gavin Parker, several helpings of pepperoni and cheese played a significant role in his decision to become a rural physician, now practising in Pincher Creek, 215 km south of Calgary.
Parker can trace his interest in rural medicine to the RPAP-sponsored pizza luncheons he attended over a decade ago, as an undergraduate medical student at the University of Alberta (U of A). Beginning with those first slices of rural perspective, a relationship was forged with RPAP that would serve him throughout the remainder of his education, and his professional career.
Parker credits an RPAP-sponsored weekend in Hinton, that he attended with his wife and fellow U of A Rural Medicine Interest Group (RMIG) members, with sparking his interest in becoming a country doctor.
“I was quite convinced I was going to be a neurosurgeon, but I saw the opportunity to have a free mountain weekend, and RPAP was kind enough to take us and our spouses skiing at Jasper on a Sunday, so I thought, ‘oh sure, I could do some skills stations and learn about this career, and go skiing. It sounds like a fun weekend’.”
It proved to be a life-altering experience.
“It was the first time I had ever saw a doctor wearing jeans, not wearing a stuffy suit and shirt and tie, and it really opened my eyes to how happy rural doctors were,” said Parker. “A lot of them would introduce me to their first wife, not their third wife, so I thought that was a pretty good sign that rural medicine is where it's at.”
Thereafter, with every rural rotation he participated in during his medical school clerkship, his desire to practice rural medicine grew stronger. Upon graduation, Parker entered the RPAP-sponsored Rural Alberta South rural family medicine program, which solidified his decision to practice in rural Alberta.
“It’s really the only career available in medicine where you get to practice the broadest scope of skills,” says Parker. “I don’t want to say I’ve delivered my last baby [and] I don’t want to treat my last abscess, or fracture, or pre-natal in a clinic.”
After spending time travelling the province as a locum physician, the Parkers settled on Pincher Creek, where he began permanent practice in 2007. Since then, he has received RPAP grant funding for a year-long anesthesia fellowship, and has also received RPAP funding for enrichment training in cardiac stress testing. In addition to this, RPAP has supported the annual Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) conference, which Parker has helped organize; and the British Columbia-based Comprehensive Approach to Rural Emergencies (CARE ) course, a multi-disciplinary simulation course for rural healthcare professionals, in which Parker and Pincher Creek colleagues serve as instructors.
Having received many advantages through his involvement with RPAP over the years, Parker joined its Board of Directors in 2013 as an Alberta Medical Association representative, with the hope of helping others discover the joys of rural medicine.
“I'm a city kid born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and I didn’t know anything about working as a country doctor,” Parker explains. “RPAP is singularly responsible for where I find myself today, and so anything I can do to help the organization I’m very happy to do so.”