Re: Why Digby Does Not Attract Doctors published in your paper Jan. 10, 2014.
“Culture is ordinary in every society and in every mind,” so said the famous media theorist and teacher Raymond Williams. He said this in Britain in 1958 two years after I was born in a little hospital in Digby where my mother was in the care of a capable surgeon and family doctor. At least I think he was capable in the sense he was technically skilled. My distant childhood memories conjure a wry fellow who worked from an office in downtown Digby. He was generally found up a long stairwell and down a short hallway and most always on a reliable schedule. I recall the good doctor tapping on my back and listening to my lungs, looking down my throat, and peering into my ears. Occasionally he would carve a small wart from my finger and throw it into the garbage bin. He thought I should get shoes that fit in order to avoid problems with my toes. He told jokes and asked after my grandparents and aunts. He was a well-rounded and highly skilled family doctor. When he was not out in the county on house calls or doing the rounds at the local hospital or operating on patients he was involved in the affairs of the town. My childhood doctor was a country doctor, a rare breed these days or so it seems.
Fifty-seven years after my introduction to life in the Digby area I wandered into the library where I met an old friend, a highly skilled classical guitarist in his younger days, and another fellow, a Russian Orthodox priest. Together we pondered why Digby does not have doctors. Our conversation sidestepped the sad observation by Dr. Matsusaki (Jan 10) that Digby has no culture and we concentrated instead on the fact that medicine has changed, that service delivery models have changed, that young doctors are perhaps being set up with quite unrealistic expectations of what they are worth, and that maybe things are not as bad as they seem. After all, each of us knew people who had received excellent health care anywhere from Yarmouth to Halifax with brief stops in Digby or Kentville in between.
Fifty-seven years after my introduction to life in Digby I wandered from the library having briefly admired the photo gallery there, to downtown where I met a more recent friend in a shop where my late Aunt used to sell flowers and bone China to the public. My new friend took a break from her endless labor making some of the finest and highly functional pottery to be found anywhere in the province. As we gazed at some first class paintings by local artists we discussed Digby’s lack of culture and then I made my regular purchase of Sissiboo Coffee’ s Fundy Storm coffee beans. The coffee roasted in nearby Bear River ranks with the best of the brews available in Eastern Canada. Starbucks simply cannot compete with Sissiboo! Thank goodness for the Fundy Storm and the fine blue mug. I now have the energy to respond to this notion that Digby has no culture.
Fifty-seven years after my introduction to life in Digby I sat down to dine with one of the most interesting abstract artists and weavers in the country and who lives on Digby Neck, with two new friends from Liverpool England, two others, one from Germany and one from Antigonish, two brilliant and engaging youngsters, two professional women from the Digby area, and of course my lovely wife herself an ex-Montrealer who has made a professional career in childcare and in education and has been gainfully employed for nearly three decades in this area. Not one of the women at our table spend much time waiting for the area to provide them with something to do. They just do it themselves. They are what we like to call independent people!
Had my mother lived to join us for our happy little Robbie Burns celebration, she would have been taken aback by the sheer diversity and talent gathered around our small feast. I should note the menu was partially made from local lamb and tupped up with Annapolis Valley wine. That wine, that coffee, that lamb all contribute to the ongoing success of the local economy because as products they partially replace our over dependence on imports from afar. In other words our meal signifies that there are many things right and good about the local economy and this bodes well for the future.
Fifty-seven years after my introduction to life in Digby I recently sat down to dine with my neighbors. One commutes to Alberta for work and the other works in local industry. The one working in local industry has an income roughly equivalent to what my own father would have made fifty years ago when Dad worked for about three dollars an hour and took his pay in cash in a recycled envelope. The local worker has no pension plan on offer. The Albertan worker feels he is saving for that pension. I wonder at what cost. These two have an able and intriguing grandson who can build catapults, design roads, and imagine himself as an active construction worker as he plays with his trucks on the property once owned by my grandparents. I contemplate his future and marvel at his inventiveness as the young fellow works and works until he is able to sling a dead mackerel closer and closer to his target. I feel reassured that in this place I call home independent people will continue to make their lives.
What about the shortage of doctors in the Digby area? Is it not possible for a doctor to imagine herself working and living with independent people in a place rich in diversity, history, and culture. Firstly the doctor will have to open her eyes to see the ordinary culture and then actively live in that culture to learn how fortunate her lot in life!
Tony N Kelly
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