Dr. Spencer has worked at Atikokan General Hospital since 1992. She held the role of Chief of Staff for the last four years.
Dr. Spencer grew up in Southern Ontario and attended her hometown university, McMaster, for her degrees in Engineering and Medicine. She came to Northwestern Ontario for locums for her first job after internship. She was drawn to the area by childhood family holidays to Northern Ontario. Friends were close by too, as a number of medical school classmates were residents of the charter class of the Northern Ontario Medical Program for family medicine residents.
There is no shortage of broader professional opportunities here [in Atikokan]. All the physicians are involved in training others, through the Thunder Bay-based family residency program and the new med school. And other growth opportunities are not hard to find.
“Whenever I’ve been ready for a different challenge, it was there,” said Dr. Spencer, who became Chief of Staff at AGH in 2006.
While the opportunity to use all of their training can be an exciting challenge, it can also be daunting. That’ s where the collegiality of the practice here is a big factor. “It can be scary to think you’re working in a remote community,” said Dr. Spencer, “But we are aware, we have confidence, that if there is a serious emergency, there is help on the horizon.”
In fact, that collegiality led directly to her decision to settle in Atikokan. She first came to serve a pair of extended locums, which then grew to include covering a maternity leave. After almost a year, she felt she had become part of the team, and “it was hard to leave.” Within a year, Dr. Spencer was back as a full member of Atikokan Medical Associates.
“We rely on each other – and all of the members of the health care team,” said Dr. Spencer. “Without every member of the team, the patient won’t get the care needed.”
If you want to be involved in things, people are very welcoming,” said Dr. Spencer. “Events like the 100th Birthday, the adventure race, the Outers 40th, bring the community together, and really make it apparent how strong that sense of community is here.”