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Adventures await Bowen’s newest Family Physician

Rural healthcare has long been a passion for Dr. Downey
Dr. Lindsay Downey is the new Family Physician at the Bowen Island Community Health Centre.

There’s a new family physician at the Bowen Island Community Health Centre. Dr. Lindsay Downey recently began the role at the island facility, a position she’s worked in for more than a decade in rural Ontario before her recent move out west.

Downey’s medical career originally began in the lab performing research. But she soon came to miss the human interaction component of health care. When Downey began her medical school rotations, she realized a widespread approach was her calling.

In fact, on her first day of medical school she was assisting with an operation on a baby and felt this was her calling. With the next rotation in paediatrics and the ones that followed, she felt the same way.

Over and over she rotated through various areas of medicine and realized she loved them all. When she finally landed in a rural family medicine clinic she realized this speciality offered the opportunity to do a bit of everything in medicine while making a positive impact on the health of her community.

Lindsay knew that she wanted to pursue her career in a smaller town. This guided her to a more comprehensive role; Downey explaining that rural doctors need to know a bit of everything while a detailed sub-specialization would likely draw someone to a larger hospital in the city.

Downey has spent the past 14 years performing numerous roles at her family practice in Georgetown, ON, a short drive west of Brampton and Mississauga. Family physician coverage runs from birth to death, and for Lindsay has included obstetrics, newborn care, disease prevention, long term care, children’s health, end-of-life care and everything in between. Dr. Downey’s roles also included teaching Family Medicine Residents as Assistant Clinical Professor at McMaster University and providing care at both a rural hospital: Georgetown Hospital and a much larger centre: the Brampton Civic Hospital.

But in the last few years Lindsay and her husband Jordan, along with their three children, began to look elsewhere to continue their lives and careers. Specifically they set their sights on the west coast, where they went on vacations each year to take part in one of their favourite hobbies – skiing. It was during one of these snowy trips to Whistler that Lindsay had an epiphany. “Why aren’t we living where we can do this on our weekends?”

As fate would have it a perfect series of events transpired which led Dr. Downey to the new Health Centre. One was awareness of the job itself, thanks to a friend of Jordan who lives on the island. A conversation with the centre’s Executive Director Suzanne Saatchi followed which confirmed the upcoming project was one Lindsay wanted to be part of.

“The timing was such that they were ready to talk seriously about what they were looking for specifically, and what their vision would be,” says Downey. The more she learned about the Bowen Island Community Health Centre the clearer it became, that this was an opportunity worth the cross-country move.

The health centre’s vision includes a focus on team-based care, where many different medical disciplines work together in the same space – just like Lindsay’s practice in Georgetown which included mental health counsellors, dieticians, nurses, a pharmacist and more. “You have people that contribute to the wellness and well-being of a community and offer their own expertise… That is the type of care that is sustainable and good for communities – and nice to work in.”

Dr. Downey and the rest of the Health Centre’s care team continue to work out of Artisan Square as they await the opening of the facility, an occasion they are all eager for. “I’m looking forward to meeting the teams that are taking the other occupancies in the Health Centre too,” says Lindsay.

“The Health Centre is beautiful, and there is something about having natural light come into where you’re working – it’s good for your wellness,” says Lindsay. Bordering on Crippen Park and attached to the trail system, the centre’s location is as unique and inviting.

In addition to the job, the nature of Bowen Island and its people also helped seal the deal. During a visit last year to scout things out, Lindsay’s kids were struck by the friendliness of the community and how often people smiled at them. “They noticed right away that people went out of their way to acknowledge you and hold the door and say hello. Which is just a really good vibe,” she says.

Lindsay was also encouraged by the creative spirit of Bowen. “I really like that people value and cherish all different varieties of art and culture,” she says. The natural features of the island were another selling point, including the many trails, absence of light and noise pollution, and even the recent performance by the sea lion choir, adding she’s very happy with the choice to make such a big move.

And of course there’s the patients themselves. For the first time in awhile Dr. Downey finds herself building her patient list from scratch. “It’s really interesting because I’m building my practice now on Bowen and I’m remembering what it’s like to not know people, and have them not know you. You have to build that trust and you have to invest in the relationship in a different way.”

But, once that connection is established, “It’s very fulfilling,” says Lindsay, who has already begun forging many of these new relationships which will last into the years ahead.