Neurosurgeon Dr. Mike Kelly isn’t necessarily practicing in Saskatchewan because fishing here is better than in San Francisco, Cleveland or Cambridge, Mass., where he recently received a certificate of surgical leadership from Harvard Medical School.
Fishing here helps.
It helps a lot that Kelly can go to Besnard Lake or even further north a few or three times a year to fish with a medical associate or old high school friend from Regina.
This helps him get out easily into the water in Blackstrap Lake in front of his cottage, which is an easy commute to where he works at Royal Saskatoon University Hospital. This helped him find a very nice and affordable home near RUH that would allow him to walk to work even in the cold Saskatchewan winters.
It must really help that he’s from here. Kelly grew up on a grain farm near Gray, a hamlet southeast of Regina where 58 people live in 24 to 27 of the homes that are still occupied.
But what has helped the most has been the health system showing that we want its people to stay.
“I am a proud supporter of public health service delivery in this country,” Kelly said in a recent interview.
“If I didn’t feel so strongly about it, I would have gone to America years ago.”
The lure of practicing in a large, well-paid US medical center exists for most medical professionals, but it is even greater for doctors of Kelly’s caliber, who are appointed provincial chief of surgery in February.
This week, Kelly and Dr. Patrick Brophy – a pediatric nephrologist, appointed provincial head of pediatrics and pediatrics in May – was appointed to a leadership role to help the government recruit medical talent.
A lauded University of Saskatchewan graduate, Brophy has returned to the province after recently serving as chair of pediatrics and chief physician at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, NY
Previously, Brophy worked for more than 10 years at the University of Iowa Health Care as director of pediatric nephrology and an affiliated professor at Carver College of Medicine.
Kelly received her PhD in anatomy and cell biology, MD and B.Sc., from the U of S, where she also completed her neurosurgery residency.
He later completed a fellowship in cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery at the Cleveland Clinic and Stanford University Medical Center and has practicing neurosurgery in this province since 2008.
He is chief of the division of neurosurgery and chair of clinical care at the Saskatchewan Heart and Stroke Foundation and has conducted critical research and clinical trials on stroke recovery.
There’s been temptation from San Francisco or other major US medical centers actively recruiting him, Kelly admits. But with wives and families firmly rooted in the province, the desire to stay home prevailed.
Kelly believes many local surgeons, anesthetists, specialists and healthcare providers share the same desire.
Keeping them here may require them to offer something before they leave, he said, adding it wasn’t always money.
“If you look at the US model, they surround surgeons with high-quality personnel,” said Kelly, stressing the need for a supportive team of healthcare professionals.
Of course, proper compensation is necessary, but Kelly believes Saskatchewan could be competitive if it was smart and avoided any hiring bidding wars with neighboring Manitoba and Alberta.
It also takes strategy, he says, adding that may mean accepting that Regina and Saskatoon can’t offer all of the same specialties.
With a more agile single health authority and the added cost of recruiting, Kelly says Saskatchewan does have the tools to attract medical professionals – especially those from here.
Not all medical professionals are familiar with dural arteriovenous fistulas: indicators of endovascular embolization and such techniques may be sufficiently interested in the best presenting technique of leeches or semi-crawlers on the bottom guards likely to lure Saskatchewan walleye.
But there are other ways to attract top medical professionals.
Mandryk is a political columnist for Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
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