Dr. Elisabeth Lewke-Bogle of Milk River describes herself as a mother, a wife, and a physician. You can add “hero” to the list.
After her retirement in 2005, following nearly 30 years of medical service within her community, Dr. Lewke-Bogle expected to travel with her husband, Robert, and spend time with her adult children and grandchildren.
However, when the town’s remaining two physicians left the community in 2009, Milk River found itself in crisis. Presented with the idea that Alberta Health Services would temporarily close their 24-hour emergency department to cope with the doctor shortage, Dr. Lewke-Bogle stepped up and stepped in, coming out of retirement until a new physician could be found.
“I realized that with the way the medical services are delivered, once you lose one little piece of medical services, especially in a rural community, you never get it back,” said Dr. Lewke-Bogle. “If I hadn't come out of retirement, the chances are that we would've lost our emergency department and that would be a great detriment to our community.”
The plan was to stay for six months to allow time for recruitment. Six months turned into five years. During this time, a new physician came and left after less than a year, and a physician assistant was added to staff in 2013 to help the Milk River medical team with the round-the-clock responsibility of running an emergency department.
Thanks to Dr. Lewke-Bogle’s steadfast commitment to her community, and with support from Milk River’s healthcare team, the Rural Locum Program, the Quad Municipalities Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee, and RPAP, medical services in Milk River were maintained until two new physicians, Dr. Pieter Krog, and Dr. Adaku Ifebuzor, arrived.
In 2015, Dr. Lewke-Bogle was selected by the RPAP Board of Directors to be the award’s 13th recipient. On 27 Feb 2016, over 400 people gathered at the Milk River Civic Centre for an evening of heartfelt thanks and glowing tributes for the distinguished Milk River physician.
Dr. Lewke-Bogle offers thanks to many for their support personally and professionally over the years, first among them being her husband of almost 40 years. “Without him it would not have been possible because I could not have balanced the life, the work and family life.”
As for the RPAP Physician Award, 2015’s recipient says there are many worthy recipients practising throughout the province. “I think it's a recognition of there is a need to recognize the people who do serve rural Alberta, and I'm very honoured to have received this award.”