Rural Family Practice on Vancouver Island a Perfect Fit for Physician and Young Family

Rural Family Practice on Vancouver Island a Perfect Fit for Physician and Young Family

October 21, 2018

When Dr. Carrie Marshall and her family moved to Tofino they quickly learned that dressing for the rain was important. In Hawaii, where Dr. Marshall had lived since 2001, you stay inside until the rain stops. But on the western shores of Vancouver Island, you can’t wait that long. “It rains so much here you just have to embrace it,” she said. She and husband Matt Dyer now make a regular habit of putting the rain cover over the stroller to protect six-month-old Samuel, and decking two-year old Julian out in rain gear before heading off for a hike on the beach.

Dr. Marshall’s clinic is in Ucluelet, about a half-hour drive from Tofino. The family lives in Tofino to be near the hospital, where Dr. Marshall is an on-call physician in the emergency department. “I think practicing rural family medicine is so thrilling, and I just really think it has been the right choice moving to Canada, personally and professionally,” she said.

At the clinic, her patients range in age with a diverse assortment of needs. In the emergency department, she mostly sees “run-of-the-mill” injuries. “Tourists injuring themselves with surfboards are pretty common,” she said. There can also be very sick patients and even emergency deliveries. She praised a system where physicians in Tofino have telephone access to specialists on call.

Dr. Marshall grew up in Vancouver, but Dyer is from Victoria and spent time surfing and camping in Tofino. After completing their undergraduate degrees the couple moved to Hawaii, where Dr. Marshall earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Hawaii before entering medical school. There, she and some fellow medical students started a medical clinic at a nearby homeless shelter. The experience helped her develop skills important for a family physician in a small town, where “you have to do a lot of things yourself”.

“When people have so many barriers to care you see a lot of pathology you wouldn’t normally see and get to do a lot of procedures you might not get to do in a well-funded, financially well-off patient population,” she explained.

After finishing her residency, Dr. Marshall and Dyer, with baby Julian in tow, were searching for a place to lay down roots. There was a job opening in Tofino and given Dyer’s enthusiasm for surfing and fishing, it seemed the right fit for the young family.

Ucluelet and Tofino each welcome more than 30,000 visitors during the summer, Dr. Marshall said. This influx keeps her busy, but she gets weekends off thanks to locum physicians.

Dyer, who in Hawaii worked as a coastal geologist, is home with the boys. Tofino has a young population and a welcoming, tight-knit community that works to ensure there are many things to do. A day out might include gym activities, trips to the beach, community-run educational programs or a music class for toddlers.

Originally posted March 27, 2015