Twelve years ago, Dr. Rob Warren found himself at a career crossroads.
After five years of practising law, Dr. Warren, tired of the daily grind, left his legal career in downtown Calgary in order to spend more time with his growing family.
Following a move to Sundre, a community of 2700, one-hour northwest of the city, and a stint as a stay-at-home dad, Dr. Warren was looking for ideas as to what he should do next. He found his answer close to home. It was the opportunity to work alongside his physician wife, Michelle, that motivated him to go into medicine.
“We finish each other’s sentences. We’re motivated by the same things, are passionate about the same things,” Dr. Warren continues, explaining why medicine seemed like such an obviously answer.
“And, in this profession, as a doctor in the small community, we actually have the opportunity to come to each other’s rescue at work… and that’s really a powerful thing to be able to do.”
Sundre is an amazing place for health-care professionals to work and to live.
Once Dr. Rob became a practising physician in 2011, the couple’s passion for their work, their community, and collaboration had them looking for new opportunities to make a difference.
Two years later, they opened the Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic, a multidisciplinary medical centre, made up of a team of family physicians, nurses, and highly trained staff.
This family-based clinic is now setting an example for other medical centres across Alberta, something Dr. Warren attributes in part to the experiences he had with RhPAP as both a student and practising physician.
“RhPAP was an integral part of my development as a rural physician, literally from day one,” he shares. “It’s been a tremendously supportive organization, and, once I got into practice, one of the biggest keys that RhPAP helped me […] and our community with, was the attraction and retention work.“
Having experienced first–hand what RhPAP does for rural medicine, Dr. Warren joined its Board of Directors in 2014, becoming chair of the board last year. Since then he has become even more come even more dedicated to the goal of expanding the organization’s initiatives.
“What I hope to achieve [as board chair], and what I hoped to achieve when I initially became a director, was to expand the good work that RhPAP has done for physicians to other allied health professionals. To encourage training in these small towns, providing places to live so [future health professionals] can be exposed at an early course of their training to what rural health practice is like in their area, to encourage attraction and retention incentives to bring people out here,” Warren explains. “I think RhPAP’s model has […] proven to be effective, and it will be very easy to incorporate that model in other health professions.”
The opportunity to work within multiple levels of health care, in facilities such as the Sundre Hospital and the Sundre Seniors’ Supportive Living Facility, demonstrates the diverse scope of practice professionals can have in rural areas. As Dr. Warren explains, it also illustrates the impact their careers can have on close-knit rural communities like Sundre.
“The unique thing about working in a small town is [that] your community [also includes] the people who take care of you,” he shares. “So, I’m taking care, as a doctor, of people who are teaching my kids in school. I’m taking care, as a doctor, of the family of the pharmacist who helps me provide care at the hospital, and those personal relationships that you develop over decades of caring for your community make the work that much more rewarding.”
According to Dr. Warren, what also makes for a rewarding life and career is finding a place you can call home, a place you connect with, and a place you never want to leave.
For him and his family, that place is Sundre.
“Sundre is an amazing place for health-care professionals to work and to live, ” he explains. “What makes it so attractive is its proximity to the mountains, and all the playgrounds.”
In addition, the proximity to Calgary and access to an international airport an hour away means the world is right at their door step. However, the most important thing, according to Dr. Warren, is the ability to get away right in their backyard.
“Although we’re close to all these things,” he pauses, adding with a smile: “We actually kind of like staying here.”
- Video by Bobby Jones and Lesley Allan; Story by Lesley Allan