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Longtime Humboldt physician Dr. Warren Huber receives Family Physician of the Year award

The last thing Dr. Warren Huber expected after 46 years practising medicine in Humboldt is to envision himself stepping onto a podium to accept the award as 2018 Saskatchewan Family Physician of the Year.

“The initial reaction was surprise because I certainly didn’t expect anything like this,” Dr. Huber said, recalling the moment he heard he had received the award from the Saskatchewan College of Family Physicians (SCFP).

“It was a pleasant surprise and a very humbling experience, too, because I know there are so many people who are equally if not more deserving of recognition.”

He suspects his longtime service to a single community may have been key to receiving the award, but the SCFP also cites his commitment to medical education and years of service on professional organizations and committees.

“I’ve been in Humboldt for 46 years and over that course of time you do develop relationships with people in various places, including your peers. And, in fact, that’s the thing that’s most meaningful to me - the recognition by my peers,” he said.

“It is a significant achievement.”

Joined Humboldt practice in 1972

Dr. Huber was born in Regina and raised in Southey. He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine in 1970 and did his residency at Hurley Hospital in Flint, Mich. He returned to Saskatchewan to join the Humboldt Medical Clinic in 1972.

He has been a faculty member of the College of Medicine since 1972, a chief of staff, and a member of the medical advisory committee for the Saskatchewan Cancer Foundation. He has also served in positions with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, including its council executive committee.

“Dr. Huber is very much appreciated in his home community and the surrounding area, and his dedication to his patients and high standards of practice and professionalism are evident in all that he does,” the SCFP said in announcing its award. “Dr. Huber continues to update his education and is heavily involved with the teaching of residents, SIPPA candidates, medical students, as well as nurse practitioner supervision and instructing ACLS.  He is a much-respected and knowledgeable voice among his peers and is held in high esteem by the staff at Humboldt District Hospital.”

Dr. Huber says over the years he has simply done what was expected of him, without thoughts of awards or honours in return. One change he has observed is a greater focus on physician wellness – the thought that physicians have to look after themselves so they can better care for their patients.

“In the initial years that I was working there was just an expectation that you do the things you have to do, and that includes everything. You’d be on frequent call, you’d be busy in your office, you’d have babies to deliver in the middle of the night, all kinds of things that would be demanding on your time – meetings and so on. You were just expected to do it.

“I think new physicians now have a much more balanced life, and they’re much more aware of the limits that time places on them and they’re able to support their families by being with them. That has changed and I think it’s a good thing for physicians.”

One thing that has helped is most family physicians now work in group practices rather than solo practice, which has allowed them to have more balance in their lives.

Technological advances biggest change

The major change he has seen during his years in practice is the advance of technology, he says.

“I remember when I was doing my internship down in Flint, Michigan, I was reading about this new investigative tool that was going to be available called ultrasound. Now it’s an everyday thing. It’s little things like that - the technology, MRIs and PET scans and all these types of things - that are tremendously new and exciting.”

But the biggest change has come from within the practice of medicine itself – specialization, he said.

“When I first started practising it was the beginnings of that rapid transition from the era where general practitioners did virtually everything and specialists were very uncommon and did very little of the day-to-day work to now, where specialization is an immense part of what we do,” Dr. Huber said.

“Even within family practice we specialize and sub-specialize. Some people have an interest in obstetrics and some people have an interest in cardiology-related subjects, some do some surgical procedures, some do some anaesthesia. At one time people did all of those things, and now it’s become much more narrow a focus. I think that’s probably the thing that’s changed the most.”

Dr. Huber roots are firmly planted in Humboldt. He lives on an acreage and enjoys spending time on his tractor just trying to maintain it. He and his wife Karen raised three daughters, who now live in Calgary and Tampa, Fla. He, too, has had chances to leave, but decided the grass is greener at home.

“Many years ago I had friends who were practising in different places who wanted me to consider joining them,” he said. “I went out and had a look at some of the places and decided Humboldt was a much better place for my family to be in and for me to practice.”

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