Dr. Gavin Parker is a true advocate for rural health.
A general physician at The Associate Clinic in Pincher Creek, Dr. Parker, or Gavin, as he prefers to be called, is also serving his fifth-year as a board member for the Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP).
“I owe a lot of what I have to this organization,” said Dr. Parker, 39, who credits RhPAP for introducing him to the idea of practising in rural Alberta.
Gavin was studying at University of Alberta Medical School in the early 2000s when he took a trip to Hinton for an RhPAP (formerly Rural Physicians Action Plan) medical skills event.
After meeting a doctor in denim-jeans who was returning from a routine lunch-hour walk with his dog, Parker realized there was a more balanced lifestyle to be enjoyed as a rural practitioner.
“I had never seen a doctor in blue jeans, and … I had never seen a doctor who could so easily leave the hospital during a regular work day having only trained in the urban centres,” he recalled. “That impressed me.”
With every rural rotation he participated in during his medical school clerkship, his desire to practice rural medicine grew stronger. Upon graduating medical school, Parker entered the Rural Alberta South rural family medicine program, which solidified his decision to practice in rural Alberta.
“Every time I would do a surgery or obstetrics, or internal medicine or a psychiatry rotation, I didn’t want to stop doing any of that,” said the Winnipeg native.
After completing his residency at the University of Calgary, Parker pursued a practice in Pincher Creek. He appreciates the diversity of skills he and his physician, nursing and other medical colleagues are able to use on a daily basis in a rural setting.
He is also happy to open the door to rural opportunities for incoming medical professionals whenever he can.
“I love that medicine is an apprenticeship-based teaching system that someone comes and joins you,” said Parker, noting that staff enfolds students into their social lives.
Parker considers himself lucky to have some former pupils as his colleagues.
He and his wife Jennifer are raising their three kids in a town they are happy to call home.
Jennifer teaches elementary students, and the parent-duo coaches about 80 kids in the Barracuda Judo Club from 4-6 p.m. in the upstairs of the same local gym, Monster Fitness, they frequent in the mornings before work.
Maybe they fit so much in to a day because every commute is about five minutes door-to-door, but Parker lets on that it’s because of a giving spirit in the community that he reciprocates.
“We had a ton of support from the family members of the students that we had, from business owners from the community,” said Parker.
The community cooperativeness is seen in the structure of the Pincher Creek Health Centre, which houses The Associate Clinic in one of its wings.
“I think that’s a real source of strength,” said Parker. “It’s a really good mix. It’s something that lets you keep all your skills sharp. Patients are very well cared for in the community.”
He said he and Jennifer thought hard about where they would locate, as couples do when building careers, and they’re thankful they chose Pincher Creek.
“We have a lot of really awesome things near us,” said Parker, noting Waterton Lakes National Park, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Frank Slide, as well as proximity to the U.S. and bigger centres like Lethbridge and Calgary being just one to two-and-a-half hours drive.
“We feel blessed to be part of this community and to give back as much,” said Parker. “I guess at the end of it, if people felt that I gave more than I took, I think I’d be happy with that.”