It is said that those who find a profession they truly love will never work a day in their lives.
Sundre doctor Michelle Warren, who was recently named the 2015 recipient of the Dr. Hal Irvine Community Focus Award, is so passionate about her line of work that she would not likely trade it for anything in the world.
Even when she’s exhausted at the end of a long day, Warren said she feels a rewarding sense of satisfaction that makes it all worthwhile.
“I really enjoy what I do — I don’t mind being tired.”
That being said, however, there are times when she needs to recharge her proverbial batteries.
“What I do find is that I periodically need to book breaks.”
As much as she is devoted to her duties as a doctor, Warren says she considers herself a mother first and foremost, a wife and a physician.
Yet after so many years in Sundre — she moved to town with her husband Rob more than 15 years ago — her connection to the community has grown to such an extent it could almost be argued the town and many of its residents have largely become like an extended family.
“When I walk into an exam room, I’m seeing patients who’ve become friends over the years,” she said.
“I enjoy knowing my patients who I’ve worked with, a lot of them since I came to town.”
In some cases, she has even seen grow to adulthood babies who she helped introduce to the world. The next step will be to see some of those individuals go on to have children of their own some day, she said.
“Then I’ll feel very old!” she laughed.
After graduating from medical school at the University of Alberta in 1997, Warren went on to complete a residency program through the University of Alberta in 1999.
“That was the year I came to Sundre,” she said.
During her residency, one of the doctors she was assigned to work with was none other than Hal Irvine, a revered and highly respected former physician in the community. Winning the 2015 award dedicated to his achievements was surprising, but it’s also what Warren has striven for.
“It’s always been sort of my goal,” she said.
“If I can be as good as Hal, I’ll have done my job.”
Irvine established a solid reputation not only as an exemplary rural family physician but also as a dedicated and engaged member of the community, she said.
On the evening of Monday, June 20, the Sundre Health Professional Attraction and Retention Committee as well as the Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives program at Cumming School of Medicine of the University of Calgary presented her with the award during an event held at the Sundre Golf Club. However, she had anticipated receiving the honour after hearing about the news during an annual University of Calgary conference for physicians involved in teaching students.
“It was humbling that people would think that I was in that same category as him,” said Warren.
All modesty aside, looking forward to going to work is not an issue Warren struggles with.
“I love the variety,” she said.
From the busy day-to-day operations of running a practice with her husband to the “hairy adrenalin surge” of being involved with the Sundre Hospital and Care Centre’s emergency department, Warren said, “I love doing it all.”
The only problem is the constraints imposed by the limited number of hours in a day. The biggest challenge is finding a balance, and because Warren loves what she does so much, “There’s always a demand for my time to do more. You have to give something up — there’s only 24 hours a day.”
So it can be tricky to juggle her many responsibilities, which include professional as well as personal and family life — she and Rob have three children aged 21, 16 and 14, she said.
Working in a small community also provides an opportunity to form bonds that would not otherwise likely be forged in a large, more impersonal facility, and that attachment to her patients makes the experience worthwhile. So does being there with them through all of life’s experiences — from the joy of delivering a healthy baby to the hardship of helping someone cope with the death of a loved one, she said.
“We treat our friends and neighbours and family.”
She expressed her gratitude to the community for welcoming her and her husband with open arms and looks forward with anticipation to seeing Sundre continue to grow.
“It’s some exciting times ahead.”