Dr. Paula Keating has been active her whole life, but most people don’t know this famous New Brunswick marathoner only got into running in her late thirties. “I had a small child, I had a busy work life, and there wasn’t much time for me,” she said. “But I decided as my child got older that I would enter a run before I turned 40!” Now patients see her as a shining example of someone who practices what they preach. “It’s brought a lot of attention on physical fitness and my patients now bring it up themselves – it inspires them a little on their own road." Just as important, she talks to her patients daily about her own four principles for healthy living. Beyond physical activity, she focuses on eating right, not smoking, and mental resiliency. Dr. Keating has run in the New York and Boston marathons, and has won the Detroit marathon. She has an active family practice on the Miramichi.
As a family physician, Dr. Mike Simon has been counselling and treating patients in his office for 25 years. For the past three years, he has also advised patients during their Wednesday morning commute to work. His weekly CBC radio show allows him to reach thousands of ears at once. “You can help lots and lots of people with something they didn’t know about,” said Dr. Simon. His advice has become so popular that he has the largest number of listeners of any Saint John morning show. Every week, CBC requests a topic, to be either pre-recorded or done live. During his 10 minutes of airtime, Dr. Simon will outline the issue, discussing causes, treatment, and prevention. His topics run the gamut from illnesses to healthy living to medical news. “It’s one way you can really bring up a health issue with the public,” said Dr. Simon. “It’s a huge benefit for health care... Letting people know this [a medical issue] exists and whether they should be concerned.”
After losing her brother to lung cancer after he smoked for five years, Dr. Adama-Rabi Youla was inspired to take a firmer stance against smoking. Dr. Youla, with help from all the physicians from the area and from the Friends of Healthcare Foundation, organized a “Doctors’ Walk” fundraiser in Campbellton, where she works one week per month in the hospital, though her practice is in Dalhousie. Restigouche-area physicians, accompanied by their patients and other health care professionals, walked five kilometres, collecting proceeds for smoking cessation. “When we walk in the street, it’s something that impacts our patients,” said Dr. Youla. Smoking is common in the Restigouche area. She believes that with greater support, including insurance coverage of smoking cessation products, more people will be able to quit.
Dr. Aron Zuidhof remembers the moment when he knew he had to do something. “After seeing patients every day deeply affected by preventable conditions, I knew the answers weren’t going to be found in my office.” That’s why he and other Fredericton doctors founded a group with a goal to improve the health and wellness of New Brunswickers through advocacy, education, and partnerships. “We have a fabulous group of doctors who are deeply passionate about health and wellness in our community. Doctors care about the health of everyone, not just those who are sick. Educating kids and parents is where we think we’ll have our greatest success.”
Dr. Laura-Lea McKay knows that individual wellness sometimes needs group encouragement. In her practice in Nackawic, she saw that people had goals for better health, but needed some motivation. She started with a challenge to the receptionist across the hall to start exercising, and ran with her as she completed her first race. Then Dr. McKay started a running club, and helped organize a community fun run called “Run the River” for kids and adults. Now she is hosting sessions for patients and the local community on running, diet, yoga, and other health topics. “No one wants to be in poor health – so we’re trying our best to help initiate activities and do what we can.”
Dr. Michael Dickinson’s advice and assistance reaches far beyond the walls of the Miramichi Regional Hospital, where he practices as a pediatrician. Since the spring of 2012, Dr. Dickinson has contributed to the Globe and Mail’s “Ask the Pediatrician” column. As readers write in with questions on topics ranging from children’s health, safety, parenting, and many others, Dr. Dickinson responds with a physician’s perspective. “It certainly takes my advocacy and health promotion to a much wider audience... It’s just a great way for physicians to promote health to the general media.” Dr. Dickinson got involved with the Globe and Mail after they approached the Canadian Paediatric Society looking for a columnist, who in turn approached him. “The paediatric community is trying to promote healthy habits in families. Providing general health information to families through a public place like the Globe only makes people better prepared and more knowledgeable about health.”
Thanks to Dr Luce Thériault and her colleagues in Edmundston, thousands of people are living healthier lives. By hitting the streets and showing their patients how to get active and make better food choices, the physicians of Prescription: Action! are changing the culture and health status of an entire community. Their program has been so successful that CBC recently named Edmundston the healthy living capital of Canada. “Providing advice is not sufficient. We must lead by example, and that is what we’re doing, by organising a wide range of activities throughout the year during which doctors and other health professionals participate actively.”
As a family physician, Dr. Sean Morrissy advises his patients to exercise to improve their health. A few years ago, some patients would have complained to him there was nowhere in town to do that. Now, with a new mountain biking trail Dr. Morrissy began creating in spring 2012, he regularly meets people who make use of it. “There’s been a ton of interest,” said Dr. Morrissy, who knows of around 70 people who use the trail for mountain biking, and even more who walk it. “They’re riding a bicycle. They’re doing it and they’re having fun.” Dr. Morrissy, who has been biking for around 10 years, originally made the trail’s first four kilometers for his own use. As interest grew, he started a Facebook group, Mountain Bike Minto, where people could contact him to learn how to mountain bike. So far, he’s taken about 20 people out on the trail, which now runs in an eight kilometre loop, with another seven kilometres in the works. “In the woods it’s more interesting and the time just goes faster,” said Dr. Morrissy, who acknowledges working out on a machine may not appeal to everyone. “With this, people are distracted, they’ll go out and have fun and burn calories.”
Dr Bonita Boone had been involved with the Fredericton Amateur Speed Skating Club Inc. for almost twenty years. When she heard the Learn to Skate Program was short on coaches, she laced up her skates – proverbially and literally – and started coaching dozens of four-year olds. Dr Boone is now devoting prime physician time – Friday nights and Saturday afternoons – to the children, from October to March. She planned her own family and vacation time around the children’s sessions and competitions. She now has 90 skaters in two programs, and still finds herself organising. She deals with questions from parents, issues with coaches, and so on. Most importantly, she gets to spend quality time with the kids. “Winters are long in New Brunswick, and people need to have physical activities that they can do. I find it incredibly rewarding to work with the kids.”
A force to be reckoned with in driving positive change, Dr. Linda Dalpé has made it her mission to enable Caraquet residents to live a healthy lifestyle. The results of her efforts can be found throughout Caraquet – in the school cafeteria, in the park, and in the town’s recreation facility. Dr. Dalpé served as President of Caraquet’s outdoor recreation club for three years. Feeling that the food didn’t match the recreation centre’s general theme of sports and physical activity, she ended sales of the canteen’s food. In its place, she introduced a vending machine selling healthier options like nuts, dried fruits, and water. Caraquet's “Bench fit” park allows users to complete a 10-station circuit of exercises using only park benches. Accompanying signs explain the exercises. The park is the result of four years of lobby efforts by Dr. Dalpé. With children of her own, Dr. Dalpé sits on their school’s Parent Committee. Wanting to ensure her children had healthier food available in the cafeteria, she worked to improve what was offered. For those looking to bring about changes in their own communities, Dr. Dalpé has some advice: “It needs to be something you’re passionate about. For some people its sports or food. For others, it’s mental health, meditation, or resilience. But don’t just talk about it, get involved.”
Oncologist Dr. Mohammed Harb, along with Drs. Nizar Abdel-Samad, Paul Goobie, and Tooraj Shakerinia, are taking action in the fight against cancer – literally. Together with Dr. Harb’s wife and son and other health care colleagues, the group is raising funds for The Moncton Hospital’s Oncology Clinic with a five-day cycling event spanning over 500 kilometres. Known as “N.B. Doctors Cycling Against Cancer,” the group departed The Moncton Hospital on June 15, 2015. They passed through Sussex, Fredericton and Miramichi before returning to the Oncology Clinic on June 19. “Our cyclists have been training all winter for this event and are excited to meet the challenge of cycling such a long distance,” said Dr. Harb. “It’s going to be a grueling ride, but knowing that we’ll be improving cancer care for patients in our region makes it all worth it. ”Funds raised will go towards improving the Oncology Clinical Trial Program at The Moncton Hospital through the purchase of medical and communications technology. “The technology we hope to purchase from this ride will improve access to care and ensure quicker and more accurate results for patients enrolled in the program,” said Dr. Harb.
Restigouche physicians are taking it to the street to fundraise for patient support and to send a strong message to the community. In 2013, with the help of other physicians in the area and the Friends of Healthcare Foundation, Dr. Adama-Rabi Youla organized the first Doctors’ Walk fundraiser in Campbellton. The walk was planned as an annual event with a different cause each year. It was agreed that all participating physicians would donate $200 each to that year’s cause. For the second annual Doctors’ Walk, Dr. Nicole Matthews suggested diabetes as that year’s cause. With a motto of “Diabetes, it’s not just about sugar,” over $36,000 was raised to support people living with the disease. “It was well-received by the community,” said Dr. Matthews, adding that almost 400 people showed up for the walk.
Dr. Theresa Koppert is passionate about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. “In order to make health care affordable, we have to make our population healthier.” With the support of the Saint John Medical Society, Dr. Koppert challenged Saint John physicians, politicians, and students to form teams, track their physical activity, and eat an apple a day. The challenge’s goal was to encourage healthy behaviours. Results were publicly tracked on a website; privately, her patients came in with news of their extra activity. The challenge drew the attention of politicians to how difficult it is to get the recommended amount of daily exercise, and made a lasting change in our habits.
Dr. Erin Palmer remembers feeling overwhelmed by the impact obesity has on health during her medical school training. “Then I began my own practice and I felt overwhelmed and unprepared to counsel patients on how to make meaningful changes.” She joined the Canadian Obesity Network and is pursuing further training in obesity medicine to learn more about how to help her patients with obesity. Now, she’s piloting a series of group appointments for her patients, where she will harness the benefits of teamwork and group motivation. “It’s a new approach to talk about a subject that is difficult to manage in an office visit. We’ll bring it out into the open and work on it together.”