Nova Scotia

'Go big or go home': Kentville hosting party of 500 to welcome 11 new doctors

Eleven new specialists have started working at the Valley Regional Hospital this year, inspiring people in Kentville, N.S., to organize a huge party on Friday night to welcome them to the town.

Residents of Nova Scotia town hope to convince new specialists to stay in the community

Maresa Davidson and Mark Vardy stuff gift baskets for the new doctors in Kentville, N.S. They're hoping to convince the doctors to stay long term. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

When Dr. Douglas Choo received an email to a large community celebration on Friday night, at first glance he thought it was junkmail.

It took him a few minutes to realize that not only was he invited, he was one of the guests of honour.

"It's an honour," he said. "I talked to a few of my other colleagues who have gotten positions across the country and none of them have anything like this happening to them."

Choo, who is originally from Dartmouth, N.S., started working as an interventional radiologist at Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, N.S., two months ago. He's one of 11 new specialists who have started at the hospital this year.

Dr. Douglas Choo is originally from Dartmouth, N.S., but wants his three sons to grow up in the Annapolis Valley. He says he was fortunate a job opened up in his ideal location just as he finished his training. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

People in Kentville have decided to give them the red carpet treatment, hosting a party with 500 invites on Friday night to celebrate the new doctors.

As communities across the country try to hire doctors, Kentville is hoping events like this will convince their new recruits to stay. 

For Mark Vardy, the party is a great opportunity to "go big or go home" and show that Kentville appreciates its medical professionals. It was his idea to switch from a small meet and greet to a full celebration at the Maritime Express Cider Company.

"I'm a come-from-away myself, not originally born and raised in the Valley, and I think it's a wonderful place," Vardy said.

"This is an opportunity for everyone — the medical community, the business community — to get together and celebrate and welcome the new doctors to the area."

'I want them to feel welcome'

Vardy owns Gates Insurance and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce. He said it didn't take any convincing to get him on board to help with doctor recruitment and retention. He points out the loss of doctors can have a snowball effect through the community.

"I want them to feel welcome want them to get a sense of how important they are to the community. As a small business owner, the health of my staff is important. If my staff and their young families don't have doctors to go to it creates a problem and I won't have people to come to work."

Vardy is working alongside Maresa Davidson, the owner of Valley Medical Aesthetics. Over the past couple of years, she's planned smaller-scale events to welcome nurse practitioners and family physicians to the area.

She was thrilled when community sponsors came on board to help plan a much larger party.

"I think it makes a pretty big difference when you know that you're wanted in a community and that you're respected and that you're cherished."

Dr. Charlotte Edwards is an anesthesiologist who could have worked anywhere in the country. She and her fiancé chose to work at Valley Regional Hospital because of the strong sense of community. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Dr. Charlotte Edwards said she was flabbergasted when she was invited to the event.

The anesthesiologist from New Brunswick started working at Valley Regional about a month ago, her first job post-residency. Her fiancé is a urologist who spent time at Acadia University.

When it came to choosing where to live, they decided to check out Kentville.

"I could have gone to go to Alberta and made twice as much but we just love the Maritimes, love the patients, love the people and are really, really happy and excited to be able to stay."

Like Choo, she said the party is just icing on the cake. She said the staff at the hospital instantly made her feel at ease.

"The goal for us for sure is to stay long term. This is an incredible place to start and raise a family and so we're hoping to stay, the party certainly doesn't hurt."

Choo also plans to stay long term. He wants his three sons to grow up in the Valley. His expertise isn't just in medicine, he's also an architect.

"I hope to buy a piece of land and build something in the Valley and be here for the long haul."

About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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