SUNDRE — Two local physicians recently added another feather in their caps after being recognized by the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada.
Dr. Michelle Warren and husband Dr. Robert Warren, who together operate the Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic, were named this year’s recipients of the Rural Service Award during a virtual ceremony hosted late in April by the society in conjunction with the organization’s annual rural and remote medicine course.
“It’s something that we of course believe in quite strongly, is that rural communities need access to quality health care that is as good — if not better — than what’s available in the cities,” said Michelle, adding the couple also enjoys not only being available to serve the Sundre area, but especially being a part of the community.
They were the only Alberta-based physicians recognized in that category, which included four doctors from Ontario and another from B.C.
“It was an honour,” said Michelle.
However, grateful as she was for the accolades, she believes there are many other physicians who also deserve praise for the quality of work and services they provide their communities. But only those who have been members of the society for a minimum of five consecutive years and who have worked in rural Canada for at least 10 years are eligible to receive those awards.
“I think it’s important for communities and organizations to recognize the incredible work that rural physicians do in their communities, providing not just care within their own medical clinics and to their patient population, but also being an integral part of the community,” said Michelle.
The physician — who years ago returned to Sundre with her husband to open their clinic in 2013 after spending time practising in New Zealand — pointed out that Dr. Carla Foolen, one of their colleagues at the Greenwood Family Physicians clinic, was named a recipient of the same award in 2017.
Founded in 1992, the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada is the national voice of Canadian rural physicians, along the way performing a variety of functions including developing and advocating health delivery mechanisms, supporting rural doctors and communities in crisis, promoting and delivering continuing rural medical education, encouraging and facilitating research into rural health issues, and helping facilitate communication among rural physicians and other groups with an interest in rural health care.
Working for the betterment of their community — whether on council, the local chamber of commerce, doing volunteer work or providing financial contributions, and of course through their work at hospitals and seniors’ care facilities — can be its own reward for doctors, she said.
“One of the benefits of being a rural family physician, is you are very much a member of the community,” she said. “And because it’s smaller, it’s more of a family.”
That tends to foster a more vested interest in the community a physician calls home, she said.
“I think that’s one of the big attractions,” she said.
Doctors’ kids typically go to school with all of the other local children, and they cheer on the community’s sports teams alongside neighbours, parents and patients, she said.
And when a need is identified, they’ll work with other members of the community to address it, she said, citing as an example the annual Play 4 Sundre Kidz golf tournament, which after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic sold out this time around for the first time ever. The fundraising event was scheduled for Saturday, July 17.
“This is something we feel is very important, is that kids should have access to sport — the cost shouldn’t be a barrier,” said Michelle, adding she and Rob are happy for the opportunity to partner with people like Nicky and Chris Vardas, the owners of Original T’s Family Restaurant, to help put on the event.
“There’s a reason we moseyed back to Sundre after our time in New Zealand, and why we’ve invested like we have,” she said.
“It’s just an amazing community to be a part of.”