Dr. Boyd enjoys giving back to the community

Augustana alumnae Dr. Charley Boyd reflects on her time spent at Augustana and Camrose, and the decisions that led her back to work as a family physician to the town where she started her journey into medicine.

Tia Lalani - 23 January 2020

By Murray Green, Camrose Booster

Dr. Charley Boyd attended Augustana for three years before heading to North Campus to pursue medicine. She now works at Camrose's very own Smith Clinic and is excited to work in the community that helped her get to where she is today.

Dr. Charley Boyd is a family physician at the Smith Clinic.

She grew up on a grain farm near Oyen and came to Camrose to go to university at Augustana.

"I picked Augustana because of its size. Coming from small-town Alberta, I wanted to start at a smaller university. I wasn't quite ready to go to the University of Alberta's main campus. I was also really excited at what Augustana had to offer," said Charley.

"I made the decision to become a doctor in high school, based on the classes I was enjoying. I shadowed at a doctor's office and I enjoyed that as well. I knew I needed several years at university and the more years I took, I would be less likely to return to a rural area," explained Charley.

She completed three years at Augustana and then moved to North Campus to complete medical school in another four years. Then she began two years of family medicine training. "I was a professional student for a long time, nine years," she laughed.

"I belonged to the United Church for a lot of years growing up with family and attended a lot of youth events, some of which were in Camrose. My value of church came through the youth years and I found a sense of community and social justice. When I came to Augustana, I connected with the chaplaincy which was helpful, but the United Church is where I felt at home," shared Charley. "I started attending Camrose United Church."

Charley soon got involved with the organization The Flying Doctors, who went to Nicaragua to provide medical attention to an area that doesn't have a lot of health care.

"I found out about the Flying Doctors separately. The church fostered and encouraged helping others. Joining the Flying Doctors met that mandate for me. The CUC was very helpful and supportive in terms of fundraising to help make that trip possible for me. I remember that they put on a fundraising supper for me, serving spaghetti, and when I returned, we held an event to say thanks for that support and to report back on my experiences and share the stories. I made a presentation sharing pictures and explained what happened," said Charley.

"It was a huge part of me as far as how I look at medicine. It focused on the importance of what I do. Part of the amazing work they do revolves around prevention. We built stoves that burn cleaner and hotter [air] in people's homes with chimneys. Most cooked over an open fire in their kitchen and, as a result, there was a lot of respiratory disease. When you spend 10 days in a place, you look at a meaningful way to impact that community. The stoves we built stayed with families and that made a bigger impact than, say, a single doctor's visit to a patient. It showed me the power of public health policies, such as having clean drinking water. The stoves and water laid a foundation of better health for people," Charley explained.

"The biggest piece it gave to me was reflection on what I will do in my career to help people in a way that gives back to the world. Part of what I do in Camrose is in service to helping the population who needs that. I'm building up a partnership with The Open Door to provide safe and timely access to health care for youth. That's what I do locally. I also help out in Fort Chipewyan, north of Fort McMurray, by flying in a week at a time, every two or three months."

She feels that work is really important in recognizing and focusing on what to do in our own neighbourhoods. Flying to northern Alberta is her version of helping other people. "I thought of helping others closer to home and in our own province to maintain a long-term relationship and not just for 10 days. I learned a lot in the short time, but it didn't help the local people as much."

Limited time and resources were constraints. "I remember going to a village in Nicaragua for a one-day clinic for six hours with four doctors and each patient needed a translator. There would be a line-up out the door to see the doctor. We weren't set up well to refer them to see specialists or surgeons. We had limited lab things we could do. To adequately respond to things was hard because even if we gave a prescription, we didn't know if it would be followed after we left. I like to continually work on things, rather than [handle them as] just a one-off."

She valued the teaching experiences. "I also like to teach people to provide for their own care in the community. We taught some of the nurses in the villages things to pass on, but it is hard in so little time."

Dr. Boyd has done a lot of moving throughout her training and has had the opportunity to see a lot of places in Alberta.

"Camrose, through my Augustana years, fostered a place in my heart for the city. I met my husband at Augustana, so it was a place that he called home as well. That [offered a lot of] attraction and retention (when both spouses can work in the same community). We picked Camrose because it worked for both of us. We also just love Camrose. It was originally bigger than I hoped for, but it also allowed me to continue with obstetrics, delivering babies. And I'm not alone here. I don't have to be on call 365 days a year. I just returned to work from having a baby, so that is important for me as well. I wanted to work in a hospital and a clinic."

Working in Camrose has also given her the time to continue helping others up north and help her to do developmental endeavors.

"One of my goals in the future is to work more with The Open Door. I want to ask them and plan for what they need, rather than just responding to needs," added Charley.

She also wants to assist new moms and victims of sexual assault as well. "I think it is important to continue to build within our own community in Camrose. The trick in a more rural community is to balance the time between work and assisting in the community."

This story originally appeared in the January 14, 2020 issue of the Camrose Booster.