What years were you part of the UTDRO residency program?
I completed my Residency at UTDRO between the years 1992 and 1996. Following this, I joined the Oncology team in Thunder Bay and am currently the Clinical Lead for Radiation Oncology at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Center.
What inspired you to pursue the career path?
I wanted to work with cancer patients and I was interested in a field that combined my interests in medicine and math/physics. Radiation Oncology appealed to me as the perfect choice.
What are the greatest challenges you face?
One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of working at a smaller cancer center is to manage and treat many different cancer sites at the same time. This means continuous learning, reading and keeping up to date. Technology for radiation planning and delivery has improved tremendously and I am pleased that we have been able to provide state of the art treatment for our patients.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
So far my career in Radiation Oncology has been fantastic. Working in Thunder Bay has far more rewards than challenges. I have been able to pursue my areas of interest in Radiation Oncology and I feel that I have provided a valued service to the people of Northwestern Ontario.
Initially my plan was to stay in Thunder Bay for a few years and then return to Southern Ontario. However, my husband, David, a family physician, and I fell in love with Northern Ontario and decided to make our home here. We have two daughters. Our older daughter, Christina, is currently a medical student at Northern Ontario School of Medicine and our younger daughter, Victoria, is a student at Lakehead University.
The most rewarding aspect of my career is that I have been able to work full time and enjoy my family. Looking back at the early days, I remember travelling and flying to small northern communities to conduct peripheral clinics while taking my young daughters along with me, leaving them at various daycares in those communities while I was at work. One of the most positive aspects of living in the north is proximity to nature. My husband and I have enjoyed cottage life and outdoor activities all year round in the north – swimming, boating, running, snowshoeing, skiing.
During the time that I have worked here, our two main hospitals amalgamated into one, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Center. The Cancer Program serves a large geographical area. We are now able to connect with our regional patients via Telehealth and we no longer travel to the smaller communities.
I am also thankful to colleagues from Southern Ontario who have travelled to Thunder Bay over the years, and to those who have accepted our patients for complex cancer surgery and radiation techniques that are not yet available here.
How did your time at UTDRO shape your life / career?
I received excellent and comprehensive training at UTDRO, which gave me the confidence to work in a busy northern center. In my fourth year of residency, I completed a one month elective in Sudbury and really enjoyed the experience of living and working in the north. When the employment opportunity presented in Thunder Bay, I had no hesitation accepting the position.
What would you tell your 20-year old self or perhaps your first year residency self?
Looking back, I would have to say, that I would have made all the same career choices again. I consider myself very fortunate to work in Thunder Bay with wonderful colleagues and I feel that we are making a positive impact on the lives of our patients by providing cancer care closer to home.
In my first year of residency, my major concerns were passing the Royal College exam, what employment opportunities would be available, and how to manage a busy career and a family at the same time.
In my opinion, the two most important life decisions are choosing your spouse and your career. I would tell myself to choose wisely and life will fall into place.
Regarding residency, my advice to myself would be to learn as much as possible from the experts and resources available in order to look after future patients as effectively as possible. I would tell myself that the end of residency marks the beginning of a whole new phase of learning. I would also tell myself not to waste time and energy wondering about the future because when you have knowledge coupled with qualifications, job opportunities will present that you may never have considered previously.
Having a family adds another wonderful dimension to life. I would tell myself that there is no particularly good or bad time to have a family and that children will fit into your life. As a working mother, I would tell myself to relish the quality time I spend with my family and to remember that children learn by example.
Overall, I would remind myself to keep positive, count my blessings, enjoy my family and my career and take time to smell the roses along the way.