Dr. Nichol honoured for inspiring Young Medical Minds
Dr. Chris Nichol demonstrates a dissection on a cow heart to Michael McCarroll and a class of Grade 9 students from Camrose Composite High School during a Grow Your Own skills event at the University of Alberta-Augustana in Camrose on Friday. Dr. Nichol was honoured by the Alberta's Rural Health Professions Action Plan for his work in developing the Young Medical Minds program in Camrose. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
Twenty years ago Dr. Chris Nichol fell in love with rural Alberta and it has since become his mission to help other medical professionals find that same connection.
On Friday, the local family doctor was honoured by Alberta's Rural health Professional Action Plan's Rural Physician Award of Distinction for the creation of the Young Medical Minds program. YMM is geared for Grade 8 students who have an interest in the medical field, and aims to plant the seed in their mind that there is a future for them to be a doctor or nurse or EMT or lab technician in Rural Alberta. The program brings in current medical professionals to give the students a crash course in what they do.
"We have a lot of outstanding professionals that work very hard and are passionate about what they do and are very excitable," said Nichol. "I am honoured to receive the award but certainly it needs to be shared with everyone else that is involved in the program."
The RhPAP Rural Physician Award of Distinction was created in 2002 to recognize the contributions of all rural physicians, especially those ‘unsung heroes’ who provide Alberta rural communities with outstanding medical services and who make huge contributions to medical practice and their communities.
Many of those medical professionals were on hand on Friday for a RhPAP Grow Your Own skills day leading demonstrations on a wide range of topics from first aid to helicopter rescue to childbirth. Nichol was leading a beef heart dissection class with the assistance of a nurse and a surgeon.
Some of the students are graduates of the program, others were getting their first exposure to Nichol and YMM.
"Today is especially exciting because we get to see them all again, some we haven't seen for two years and we get to interact with them again," he said.
Attracting doctors to rural Alberta has been a long standing challenge. Even for Nichol, who was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Vancouver and Calgary, it was never his goal growing up while dreaming of being a doctor to be practising in rural communities.
That is until he was doing a mandatory rotation in his third year of medical school.
"I saw how the teams worked together and from that my interest grew," he said.
He and his family bounced around for a few years after he graduated, but in 1998 he and his wife were sold on Camrose and he has not looked back since.
Working in rural Alberta has been a rewarding experience for Nichol and has provided him the opportunity to practice many different types of medicine as a family doctor. He has not been regimentally locked into one area. Though one of the big things that keeps him here is the team he has to work with.
"When you find great teams that work well together, it really keeps you motivated and keeps you going and keep and keeps you energized," said Nichol.
For young aspiring medical professionals, rural Alberta will provide them an opportunity to get into the industry with shortages across the board.
Nichol has watched the program slowly grow within Camrose since it was first started and is now being expanded out to other communities.
"We hear about shortages everywhere, but I think in the rural areas it is worse than it is anywhere else," he said. "It's not just with doctors, it's everybody else …. it's a challenge for all the professionals to get somebody to come back out to the rural area. Hopefully a program like this will make it more interesting for them to comeback and show them we can do interesting things out here in rural Alberta, the good things don't have to happen in the big cities."