North

Doctors Without Borders physician returns to N.W.T. as new director of medicine

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg has worked in conflict zones and played a significant role in shaping the medical approach for tackling epidemics, like Ebola. Now, Pegg is set to be the N.W.T.'s new Territorial Director of Medicine.

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg played a role in shaping the medical approach for tackling epidemics, like Ebola

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg has worked in war zones in Syria with Doctors Without Borders. She also has experience working in the North and says she has an appreciation for the geographical challenges faced by northerners. (Submitted by the Government of Northwest Territories)

Next week, a new doctor will be leading physicians in the N.W.T.

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg has worked in conflict zones and played a significant role in shaping the medical approach for tackling epidemics, like Ebola.

Now, Pegg is set to be the new Territorial Director of Medicine, and in a way, the new role is something of a homecoming for the doctor who spent parts of her career in the N.W.T.

In 1999, Pegg came to the North as a community health nurse in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. She later returned to medical school and has since provided services as a contract and locum physician in the territory.

While keeping a practice in the territory, Pegg also held senior roles within Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) where she spent time working in Syrian war zones. Recently, she was a clinical lead for epidemic response and vaccination.

Pegg says as her 12 years with Doctors Without Borders was coming to a "natural pausing point," she wanted to rekindle her relationship with the N.W.T. and return on a more regular basis rather than just as a locum.

"Given the fact that we are in the middle of … a complex situation with COVID[-19] and the pandemic, I really thought that perhaps this is something that I could take on given my relationship with the North that has been quite long-standing now," she said.

Working as a community health nurse and then as a physician, in Yellowknife, the Dehcho and the Beaufort Delta regions, gave her an appreciation for the geographical challenges faced by northerners.

"I think that being able to picture a place in my head, having a vision of what that place looks like, knowing the physical layout of the health centre, even, I think it's going to really give me a lot of advantage," Pegg said.

"It makes me feel like I'm coming in a little bit ahead in terms of awareness of where we are in the territory."

'Culturally acceptable' medicine

She says communication is one of the biggest parts for her job.

"Listening to people and the importance of being aware that even in a very complicated situation or a complicated context, it's usually possible to provide a service and to find a solution that can be mutually acceptable both to practitioners and to patients," Pegg said.

Pegg says the territory has a long way to go to improve access to continuous care in certain areas, despite "enormous strides" made already.

She's set to keep looking into how to provide services "in a manner that's culturally acceptable" to the N.W.T. population.

"[It] has not always been a strong point of health care providers," Pegg said.

The director of medicine for N.W.T. is the most senior physician administrative leader in the territory's health system and is a member its executive team. The job is meant to provide leadership in areas of planning, operation and evaluation of delivery of quality health care services by practitioner staff to residents.

Dr. Sarah Cook, pictured here, announced this summer that she was not seeking a renewal of her term as medical director, in order to spend more time with her family. Cook has been one of the top doctors in the N.W.T., providing information throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Cleveland photo/GNWT)

Pegg will replace Dr. Sarah Cook, who announced earlier this summer that she was not seeking a renewal of her term in order to spend more time with her family. Cook has been one of the faces of the N.W.T.'s COVID-19 response, and along with Chief Public Health Officer Kami Kandola, she has frequently been called on to answer questions related to the pandemic.

The territory has previously said that Cook made "significant contributions" to the territory's health and social services system during her tenure. Her term will come to an end in November.

Pegg's new role will last three years maximum, though there is no limit on seeking subsequent terms.

With files from CBC Radio's The Trailbreaker

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