From its inception in 1992, the Alberta Rural Physician Action Plan (RPAP) has served a critical role in promoting physician recruitment and education initiatives throughout rural Alberta.
In an effort to show some appreciation for these “unsung heroes” the Rural Physician Award of Distinction was developed as part of a larger strategy aimed at keeping physicians in rural Alberta communities.
The new award was launched in 2002 to honour and recognize the work of all rural physicians who provide Alberta rural communities with outstanding medical services and who also make significant contributions to their communities.
At the close of the inaugural award campaign in 2002, 29 nominations were received from rural Alberta residents and community organizations across the province.
After the nominations were reviewed, Dr. Stuart Iglesias, a Hinton area physician, was selected to be the first recipient of its new Rural Physician Award of Distinction.
His involvement in rural and national healthcare, described as “quiet but dynamic”, helped to expand the range of services offered by Hinton General Hospital. Dr. Iglesias was instrumental in providing advanced obstetrical service for the Hinton community. In addition to delivering more than 100 babies per year, he also handled difficult obstetric referrals from other areas.
“It was like a whirlwind had come to town,” recalled RPAP Skills Broker, Dr. Hugh Hindle, who was a practising physician in Hinton when Dr. Iglesias arrived in 1984. “He challenged al of the established ways we were doing things… we [were] breathless in his wake.”
Dr. Iglesias worked hard to encourage the development of services locally in order to minimize the need for patients to travel to Edmonton for medical care. One such effort was a 24/7 epidural service, which at the time set the standard for rural epidural service across the province. As a GP surgeon, he also initiated the community's pelvic laparoscopic program for diagnosis and tubal ligations.
Prior to 2002, Dr. Iglesias had lectured for a decade in the Department of Family Medicine, University of Alberta, teaching and developing obstetrical skills in second year family medicine residents. He also worked at the national level to enhance rural medicine, serving on several organizations. He also published a number of research papers and an article related to rural medicine, and was a regular presenter at national conferences.
A leader in rural medicine, Dr. Iglesias also made many noteworthy contributions to the community including: involvement with school council; sponsorship of the Iron Creek Saddle Club; helping found the Hinton Rodeo; and serving as principal fundraiser for the Seabolt Watershed Society.
Dr. Stuart Iglesias not only set standards in rural healthcare, he also set the standard for all rural Alberta physicians who followed him.
Click here to view the entire RPAP Rural Physician Award of Distinction playlist and other great videos on our YouTube channel.