Community, family and a love of teaching

By George Ardy, BA'15

Community, family and a love of teaching; these are the pillars upon which Dr. Kirsten Blaine, chief of paediatrics at Stratford General Hospital and adjunct professor with Schulich Medicine, has based her profession.

When Dr. Blaine was still in training at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, she realized that working in a small community was more appealing than working in a big city environment.

“In a larger city, a paediatrician would send a lot of patients to a tertiary centre and lose track of them,” she said. “In a community like Stratford, I can follow-up with my patients and keep in touch with them over time. I also feel closer to the people I’m helping. It’s like there is a bond between us.”

Following her time in Toronto, she established her medical practice in Stratford while building her family. She is married to Dr. Sean Blaine, a family doctor who also works in Stratford. They have four daughters, the first of which is starting college this year.

Dr. Blaine comes from a family of nurses, but it was still a surprise to her parents when she sprung her career plans on them at the age of seven. "I was pretty specific about being a children's doctor that taught other people how to be children's doctors," she explained. "My parents thought it was just a phase I was going through."

But it turns out her interest in medicine and teaching wasn't just a phase.

In addition to her medical practice, she has taken on a lot of responsibility with residency training for Schulich Medicine’s Distributed Education program. She manages resident rotations, orientations and evaluations in Stratford. And she works alongside a team of six paediatricians who share the teaching duties and oversight of the residents.

“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from trainees who appreciate having the chance to see how others work,” Dr. Blaine said, “They also love the one-to-one training.”

Working with residents provides Dr. Blaine with plenty of rewarding moments. “I love the look on a trainee’s face when they hold a baby for the first time,” she said. “Some residents come in terrified by the idea of examining an infant, but by the end of their rotation they’re much more confident. I get to see them grow as people and as doctors.”

It's also a beneficial arrangement for Dr. Blaine and her colleagues. “Teaching is so important because it keeps you sharp,” she explained. “if you’re teaching a standard of care it had better be current, and not something you learned 10 or 20 years ago. The students ask great questions that challenge us to learn.”

As much as Dr. Blaine enjoys her own specialty of paediatrics, she encourages young medical students to be open to the many opportunities before them. “I think it is important for students to experience as much variety as possible,” she stated. “Expose yourself to new situations and as many different role models as you can. And when you find what you love, follow that dream because it makes a big difference when you have a passion for what you do."

After all, not everyone knows exactly what they want to be in grade two.