NOSM alumnus helps to end Atikokan’s doctor shortage
Rural generalist practices thriving with community’s support
The town of Atikokan, located 200 km west of Thunder Bay, is well known to outdoor enthusiasts as one of the main access points into beautiful Quetico Provincial Park, the “Canoeing Capital of Canada.” The name Atikokan, is Ojibwa-Chippewa translated as ‘caribou bones’ or ‘caribou crossing.’
A few years ago, Atikokan was a town in crisis having only one full-time and one half time family physician for a population of approximately 2,800. The community relied heavily on a rotation of locums to meet its health-care needs. Today, the town has a stable physician workforce that is able to provide patient-centered care, continuity of care and, importantly, a supportive network for physicians. Dr. Shawn Minor is a graduate of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) MD Class of 2016 and completed his residency at University of British Columbia in 2018. Originally from Thunder Bay, Dr. Minor and his wife, with their young children, decided to return to Atikokan to be closer to their extended family.
Dr. Minor says it’s an ideal place to practise, in part, because of the unique and innovative ways he is personally able to deliver care. “The thing I love most is being able to do home visits with my vulnerable older patients. I’ve done home visits by bicycle, by motorcycle, I’ve also walked to home visits during my lunch,” he says. “I’ve done portable ultrasound injections during home visits because the technology is so compact and the geography of the town is easy to navigate, allowing me to go in person. I can go to the hospital in the morning then bike to the clinic after, and I really enjoy this lifestyle and continuity of care. It’s amazing.”
Since NOSM’s inception in 2002, the School’s goal has been to graduate physicians and health-care professionals to meet the health needs across the region. With a total of 714 NOSM MD graduates to date, there is still a need for more than 300 family physicians and specialists in rural and remote Northern communities. Of this group, 126 family physicians are needed, with 86 of these needed in rural communities.
NOSM recently received a $210,000 donation from Derek Day from his late mother’s estate—the Estate of Ruth Day—to assist in transforming physician workforce planning in Northern Ontario. This generous donation will support the creation of a new Rural Generalist Pathway at NOSM.