New pediatricians in northwestern Canada to help serve small communities

Yukon Pediatrician Katharine Smart, president of the Yukon Medical Association, said the new recruits will ‘be able to develop an ongoing relationship’ with patients and communities. (Steve Silva/CBC)
Yukon, a territory in northwestern Canada, now has three full-time pediatricians based in the territory, and that means they’ll be visiting more communities to provide care.

Dr. Katharine Smart, recently named president of the Yukon Medical Association, is one of those pediatricians. She’s been based in Yukon since 2017, but was joined last month by two new recruits — Dr. Sara Citron, and Dr. Joe Oliver.

“That was the process of many months of collaboration and planning between myself and Health and Social Services,” Smart said.

“We’ve been working together over the past months to recruit the two pediatricians.”

Having three resident doctors now means they can focus on providing “social pediatrics” — in other words, looking at a child’s wider environment to provide more holistic care.

That means going to Yukon’s smaller communities, Smart says — and not requiring patients to come to Whitehorse, the territorial capital.

Visiting rural communities and working with schools

Under the new model, the pediatricians will be based in the city but will spend two weeks per month (except December, July and August) in rural communities. They’ll also work with schools to help support students with complex needs.

Old Crow, Yukon, in winter. Smart says visiting pediatricians will be able ‘to get to know children and families again in the context of their community.’ (Alexandra Byers/CBC)

“We’ll be able to develop an ongoing relationship both with our patients there as well as the communities themselves, to try to better service those children and families,” Smart said.

Smart says her communities are Haines Junction, Dawson City and Old Crow.

“I can go there for two or three days, and see 30 or 40 kids instead of 30 or 40 kids having to come to me. So, that’s a lot better for families, it’s better for the environment.”

She says going to a community allows the doctors to see children in their everyday environment. For children with complex problems, the pediatrician might meet with people in their support circle.

“So that may mean the school, their counsellor, their parents, their extended family — anyone who’s involved in that child. We all sit together at the table, we hear about the child, what’s going well, where the concerns are, and then collaboratively we can solve those problems together.”

Having three resident pediatricians also means they’ll be able to provide full on-call coverage at the Whitehorse hospital, Smart said.

“So that’s also nice, to be able to support our colleagues at the hospital with more urgent or sicker children.”

With files from Steve Silva

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