Charley Boyd remembers the moment she knew she’d chosen the right career.
She was working the night shift as a medical student in the hospital in Peace River, in northern Alberta. “In one night,” she recalls, “I had the privilege of managing the delivery of a baby as well as caring for a dying patient in palliative care. I watched the new parents gently hold the hand of their newborn for the first time, his tiny hand instinctively holding onto his father's finger. Then I walked down the hall and witnessed a daughter quietly holding her dying father’s farm-worn hands as she told him her favourite memories. I was part of the full circle of life, from birth to death, in one night, and it affirmed that this is the work I want to do for the rest of my life."
During her residency, Charley worked in Medicine Hat, Wabasca, Camrose, and other smaller centres. “The vitality of small towns depends on having access to high-quality local care,” Charley says, “yet there is a shortage of doctors willing to work in rural areas. I think it is important to meet people where they need the care, rather than expecting them to travel to the city."
Charley’s goal is to be a family doctor in a rural community. In a rural setting, a family doctor provides care for her patients from birth to death, and sees them in the clinic, in the ER, in the hospital—and at the grocery store.
Luckily, Charley is fond of small communities. She grew up on a farm near Oyen, Alberta, so when it was time for her to go to university, Augustana’s small campus appealed to her. She loved the close-knit residence community, and as a residence assistant, she developed leadership and community-building skills. She remembers, “I was aware that I was living in a fishbowl. Others were watching my actions, and I had to act accordingly. It’ll be similar when I’m a doctor in a small town. I’ll have to hold myself to high level of integrity.”
Augustana provided the foundation Charley needed for medical school. She took courses not only in biology and chemistry, but also in music, Aboriginal studies, and feminist literature. “The faculty was outstanding,” she says, “and the liberal-arts courses broadened my view, helping me understand how factors such as poverty or racism shape individuals’ lives and impact their health.”
“Augustana offers a unique, safe environment in which students can test out ideas and theories, understand themselves and the world, make lifelong friends, and be part of an amazing community,” Charley reflects.
In fact, Augustana set the standard for the type of community Charley will seek when she is ready to establish her medical practice. She is looking forward to becoming part of a supportive rural community in which she will build strong relationships with her patients and their families, from generation to generation.