The Town of Deloraine is celebrating the success of its innovative doctor-recruitment program, as it welcomes Dr. Nolan Brackenreed to the community.
Roughly seven years ago, the MedFriend program was launched by a group of citizens who were concerned about the future of medical services in the area.
"Traditionally, we’ve had a wonderful hospital and clinic and we wanted to be sure that it kept going," said MedFriend spokesperson Verna Keeler. "Being a lot of farmers … we thought, ‘why can’t we grow our own doctor?’ which became kind of a catchphrase."
Brackenreed, who is originally from Justice, was chosen for the MedFriend program. They would support Brackenreed financially through medical school, if he agreed to practise medicine for at least four years in the town.
MedFriend managed to raise $60,000 strictly from donations — no tax dollars.
"It was a genuine community effort," Keeler said.
Brackenreed moved to Deloraine in July with his new wife Adrianna, who is a pharmacist. Brackenreed began practising at the Deloraine Medical Centre July 12.
"It’s really nice to feel so embraced by a community," Brackenreed said. "I’m just really happy to be able to get out here and finally start helping out, and repaying these people for their generosity."
Brackenreed said he feels honoured to be a part of the MedFriend program and growing up in a rural community, he said it’s important for him to give back.
"This isn’t quite Justice, it’s a lot bigger but I know that there’s a lot of the same ideals and moral values that I grew up on," he said. "I definitely feel strongly about maintaining my rural roots."
Brackenreed earned his four-year undergraduate degree at Brandon University before going on to medical school at the University of Manitoba. He completed his two-year residency for rural family medicine based out of Medicine Hat, Alta.
"I got to travel all over Alberta, to many small towns and … it was really good in terms of getting a feel for what rural practice is going to be like."
Brackenreed said in order for rural hospitals to stay open, more efforts need to be taken to train medical students from rural areas and for medical students to get increased exposure to small-town practice.
One of his goals is to try to encourage medical students to go into rural family practice.
Brackenreed was officially welcomed to the community this week with a special meet-and-greet.
"We thought ... because (residents) were willing to support this young man, that it would be really nice if they could meet him face-to-face," Keeler said.
There are now three full-time doctors in Deloraine, something the community hasn’t seen for quite some time.
"It’s definitely adding a huge degree of confidence in the medical offerings here," Keeler said. "It just feels like a real sense of accomplishment in the community to know that they have supported a rural person … We’re all committed to living in a rural area and we figure if we can’t help ourselves, we shouldn’t maybe be asking for so much help from the outside. Helping yourself is part of being in a small community."