A Toronto doctor who's helped out in emergency rooms across the northwest says the key to retaining more doctors in the north, is training them in the north.
Azadeh Moaveni teaches and practises in Toronto, but has travelled north for most of her career.
She graduated in 2005, and often came up north as part of rural northern initiative. Moaveni would come up for two weeks of every eight, and practice in areas that were short on physicians. She has served as a temporary emergency room doctor in Sioux Lookout, Red Lake and elsewhere.
In an interview with CBC News, Moaveni said she encourages her students to do the same, but getting doctors to stay in the north is another matter.
“I think the Northern Ontario School of Medicine is key,” she said. “If you train medical students in the north, they will stay in the north.”
'You really felt welcomed'
When Moaveni graduated, she said she "got brave" and went to Sioux Lookout for almost a month.
Since then, she’s been to many communities, but tends to keep going back to Red Lake.
Doctors in the north are "amazing" people,” she said. "They can do anything."
She also felt supported in Red Lake.
"If something came in and I didn't know what to do because I hadn't seen it before, one of the other doctors would come in and help me,” Moaveni said.
People would deliver fresh fish to her door and the local Ontario Provincial Police officers would invite her to poker games.
"You really felt welcomed. You didn't just feel like you were going there to work," she said.
"You were going there to really feel what it was like to be in that community."
Moaveni now has a husband and children, and she said that makes it more difficult to get up north.
"When you're unattached, it's easier to move around the north," she explained.
"It just becomes more difficult, because you have so many family obligations. It becomes difficult to uproot everybody and go for a few weeks and come back."
Nevertheless, Moaveni said she recommends working in the north to others — some of whom have since signed up as full-time doctors.