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Recognizing the 2022 Dr. Bryan Ward Memorial Endowment Fund recipient, Dr. Colton Lewis

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January Messenger 2023 | Posted January 19, 2023
Read time: 3 minutes

The Dr. Bryan Ward Memorial Endowment Fund is dedicated to former CPSA Deputy Registrar, Dr. Bryan Ward, who passed away in May 2012 after a long battle with cancer. This fund supports an annual award to a medical student/resident who shares Bryan’s interests in rural family practice and professionalism. We connected with the 2022 recipient, Dr. Colton Lewis, to find out what drives his passion for rural practice.

Why Rural Practice?

I grew up in a small town in Northern Alberta, so I’ve always felt a strong connection to rural communities. This connection has fuelled my desire to live and work rurally, where I can give back and facilitate care for those in similar situations. Plus, it’s great to work in a place where I also love spending free time! Whether it’s biking, hiking, playing hockey, fishing, skiing, curling or a number of other activities, I always have amazing access in my very own backyard. I’ve found that each town rallies around one preferred activity, and it creates a feeling of community that is immeasurable. This connectedness fosters strong relationships, making it easy to find a group of friends to join and explore common interests.

I also love practising rural medicine—it’s a broad, diverse, rewarding and constantly-evolving specialty. No two days are ever the same, but each can be equally as memorable. Another great aspect of rural medicine is the level of connection and collaboration between fellow rural healthcare providers. It promotes an evolution of camaraderie, skill integration and, of course, learning.

What does rural practice mean to you?

Working in rural medicine, not only do I have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, but I get a chance to hear their stories, too: lives they have lived, lessons they have learned and adventures they want to take. As a physician, you become integrated into the community you serve and play just as big of a role in your patients’ lives as they do in yours. It’s such a rewarding career, providing much-needed services to those who share the same appreciation for nature, community and connection.

What advice would you give someone who is considering rural practice?

I’ve learned many valuable lessons on my path to pursuing rural medicine, including the importance of growth: always continue learning, experiencing new things and seeing new perspectives. The Golden Rule—treat others how you would like to be treated—is still my favourite lesson, though, and the best way I can describe compassion. Approaching people with kindness, in clinical situations or elsewhere, brings the human element back into the interaction and helps foster strong, meaningful connections. As physicians, these connections are crucial when building trust with patients. Whether it’s gaining a patient’s trust in under five minutes to provide an anesthetic or upholding a lifelong sense of trust with a patient you’ve known for years, each interaction is significant. Simply smiling at the right time, asking a patient how they’re doing or grabbing someone a cup of coffee can make all the difference.

Another big lesson I’ve learned in rural medicine is that you always have a friend you can call for help. So many times I’ve asked for help, and all of a sudden there were three or four amazing friends either right in the room with me or on the phone ready to lend a helping hand. Rural is all about community—and that community will truly rally around you when you’re in need.

Dr. Colton Lewis completed his medical education at the University of Alberta, during which spent ten months of his training in Hinton as part of the Integrated Community Clerkship. He then transitioned to southern Alberta and the University of Calgary where he completed his Rural Family Medicine training in Lethbridge. In addition, Dr. Lewis recently completed his Certificate of Added Competence in Anesthesia in Calgary. Throughout his residency training, he has been stationed in Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, High River and Red Deer. Dr. Lewis is new to independent practice this year and, so far, has spent his time locuming around central Alberta, as well as in Whitehorse and Inuvik.

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