SHERBROOKE – There is no shortage of discussion and debate around how to recruit and retain medical professionals in rural Nova Scotia these days, as the province faces physician shortages in almost every municipality.
That being said, the rural life is exactly what some doctors are looking for. Among them is Dr. Michael Ackerman, who was presented with the Rural Service Award, presented by the Society Of Rural Physicians of Canada, in recognition of his many years of service on Friday, April 5 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Ackerman received the award for over 10 years of service in rural Canada. In an interview last weekend, he told The Journal that he's been practicing in Sherbrooke for 24 years.
He came to the area after completing his military service. He knew he was looking for a rural location on the coast, east or west would have suited him just fine.
An advertisement in the Canadian Medical Association Journal for Sherbrooke caught Ackerman's eye and the hospital, which was a privately run institution at the time, made a good sales pitch for the area; camping, hiking, fishing and plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits.
Once Ackerman arrived in Sherbrooke he found it was exactly what he was looking for and he has never left. “The town has been very good to us and we've also been very good to the town...I've certainly enjoyed being here.”
Along with his duties as a physician, Ackerman is an active member of the St. Mary's Shooters Association and is involved in the recently launched Cubs and Beavers group.
Speaking to the doctor shortage in rural Nova Scotia, Ackerman said, “The best recruiting tool we have is bringing students here to do some time in a rural practice to see what it is all about. I welcome the students to our practice. I see as many of them a year as I can fit into my schedule. Sometimes as many as eight or 10 a year and we give them rotations of two weeks to six weeks in duration, and try to sell them on the rural lifestyle.”
Student doctors don't only come from Nova Scotia, added Ackerman, they come “from all other parts of Canada and internationally. We've had students from as far away as Ireland and India.”
Ackerman, like most other long-term physicians in rural Nova Scotia, loves what rural life offers and is among the best promoters of rural living. The Rural Service Award is a reflection of his commitment to Sherbrooke and the province of Nova Scotia.