Dr. Anne Doig reflects on 40 years as a physician
A high school guidance counsellor made the mistake of telling Anne Doig she didn’t have to be a physician. She could be a teacher, perhaps, or a nurse.
Little did the counsellor know that young Anne, the daughter of physician Dr. Noel Doig, had determined at an age when most kids are learning their ABCs that she wanted to be a doctor.
“I was five years old the first time I announced that I was going to become a doctor, and at age 13 I got extremely angry with a high school guidance counsellor who tried to steer me to other professions – ‘Have you thought of being a teacher, a nurse?’ And I remember looking at this person thinking, ‘I am going to be a doctor, so you can stop right now,’ ” Dr. Doig said with a chuckle.
Dr. Doig graduated from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine in 1976 and fulfilled her dream of becoming a physician when she joined her father’s practice on July 1, 1978.
Today – June 29, 2018 - almost 40 years to the day, Dr. Doig will see her final patient at 12:20 p.m. at City Centre Family Physicians in Saskatoon, the successor of the practice established by her father and Dr. Sam Landa.
“It’s time,” Dr. Doig told the SMA prior to her last day. “I’ve had a few patients in the last few weeks come to see me as many as three or four times, and I’m quite convinced those people are struggling to let go.
“But I’ve got to say I’ve hugged more naked people in the last month then I’ve ever hugged in my entire career. They come in for a checkup so they can say goodbye, and they’re in a gown and they say, ‘Give me a hug before you go,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh my God I should not be hugging you in this way,’ ” she laughs.
Country to city
Dr. Noel Doig arrived in the village of Hawarden, Sask., from England in 1958. He moved to Saskatoon in 1961 and joined in practice with Dr. Sam Landa and later, Dr. Joe Golumbia and others, including Anne. Dr. Noel Doig contributed greatly to his profession, serving on boards and committees locally and nationally. He served physicians in the province through the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) for several years. The notion of service to the medical community was instilled in the young Anne.
“No one would ever say that I was under my dad’s thumb or walking in his shadow,” said Dr. Doig. “But I clearly walked in his footsteps. I modelled some of my patient care principles off what I learned not just after I started medical school but what I saw right from when I was a little, little kid.
“I was acutely aware of dad’s involvement with service to the profession. When the medicare crisis happened and in the years leading up to that, I was a little kid, but I have personal memories of listening to my dad’s conversations and of the things I was hearing from the senior physicians I met when dad would have people meet at the house. That had unquestionably a seminal influence on me and how I saw the role of the profession.”
That role for Dr. Anne Doig included one of service, including president of the Canadian Medical Association in 2009-10 and a board member with the SMA from 2005 to 2008. She has served with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, Saskatchewan Blue Cross and MEND Sask., a program dedicated to preventing childhood obesity. Outside of medicine she served on the boards of the Saskatoon Goldfins Swim Club, Swim Saskatchewan and Swimming Canada. She received an honorary doctor of laws from the University of Saskatchewan in 2013.
Leaving a legacy
Dr. Doig observes that she and her father practised for a combined 80 years in the province, serving far too many Saskatchewan residents to count. The two had 60 linear years of service – Noel for the first 20, both for the next 20 and Anne for the final 20.
She reflects on a practice that has grown from four physicians to six, to eight and now 20 in a brand new building in southeast Saskatoon.
Asked what has brought her the most joy, she says her stock answer is delivering babies.
“Clinically that’s the element of my practice that I’ve enjoyed the most in many respects,” Dr. Doig said. “With that I’ve had 40 years of practice and two years before that in residency training and my med school training, and I was shadowing my dad and going along for deliveries long before I was in practice, so I have a few little patients at the practice who are actually the grandchildren of people whom I saw born in ‘75-‘76-‘77-‘78, before I was actually in practice. I was there at their birth, and their child’s child, and I have seen that incredible continuity that we had in the practice.”
Some patients have been coming to the clinic for 60 years.
“I hugged a woman yesterday, she’s a year older than I am and she’s been a patient here for 60 years. She remembers my dad doing what would be her pre-kindergarten checkup, and she’s been with us ever since…. I said to a young lady the other day she’s the grandchild of the original couple that my dad looked after, and I looked after the next generation and all their children and now some of their children. So I’ve looked after the entire extended family over these 40 years.
“It’s a continuum of care, it’s multi-generational, and it gives me great joy that our practice has that same longevity.”
What the future holds
Dr. Doig may be leaving the practice her father formed, but she’s not leaving medicine entirely. She won’t see patients, but she wants to stay involved with physician assessment through the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
She serves on the board of the Saskatoon Symphony and begins a term in October with the University of Saskatchewan senate. Her six-year term on the board of STARS is supposed to come to an end but may be extended for a year. The STARS post is personal.
“In July of 2008 - bear in mind that my election as CMA president was August 2008 – so a month and a bit before, my number three child, my second son, was involved in a very serious highway-speed accident just north of Calgary and was lifted by STARS,” Dr. Doig said. “This is a giving back thing. He has been one of their VIPs, which is very important patient, and I’ve been involved with STARS.”
With her retirement the Doig string of serving patients in Saskatchewan comes to an end. Her brother Chip is a Calgary physician and a former president of the Alberta Medical Association, installed in 2009 by the president of the CMA at the time – sister Anne.
If any of her grandchildren expressed an interest in medicine, she’d look them in the eye and make sure they wanted to become a physician for the right reasons.
“I would need to see in them the same spark of that innate interest in patients. It’s a combination of an interest in other people - it’s not nosiness - it’s the concept of caring for somebody that I’d have to see, and I’d have to see that they understood that it is in fact a profession, it’s not a job. You don’t work nine to five, you don’t have the employment securities and benefits that a lot of people seem to expect.
“They’d have to have that passion. Even though a couple of my children have said at one point in their lives, ‘Oh maybe I will be a doctor mom,’ I thought to myself, ‘No you won’t,’ because it wasn’t there, I saw it in my brother Chip, the youngest one. I know it in myself. It wasn’t, ‘I would like to be a doctor,’ it was an assertion – ‘I am going to be’ - and it never changed.”
(Photos courtesy of Dr. Anne Doig. From the top down: Dr. Doig in her office at the new location of City Centre Family Physicians in Saskatoon; with her father Dr. Noel Doig in the staff room at the former office location in City Park; with the grandchild of the original couple that her father looked after; delivering a baby in the old delivery room of City Hospital (pre-1994); installing brother Chip as Alberta Medical Association president while serving as CMA president.)