Chair's Message

Why Choose Family Medicine?

It seems right now that you can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing a story about the primary care crisis and shortage of family physicians across the region, province, and nation. For those more technically inclined, you can read the same things as you scroll your social media. With all the “bad news” surrounding family medicine right now, why would you want to be a family doctor? The long hours, the complex patients, the paperwork… it’s no wonder applicants to family medicine residency have dropped in the past few years.

Despite this situation, I would argue family medicine IS still an attractive specialty. With a few hundred CaRMS interviews for Family Medicine completed in February, we heard loud and clear WHY Family Medicine is a great choice. Similarly, the CBC recently published a story about three Western trainees who ARE choosing family medicine. See the article and hear the interviews here.

This story couldn’t make me help but remember writing an opinion piece in the London Free Press that was published September 11, 2004. If you are my vintage, I’d go to the library and try to find it on microfiche, although I’m not sure that exists any longer. The Free Press prefaced the article by saying, “THE DOCTOR IS IN; SCOTT MCKAY IS GOING AGAINST THE FLOW. AT A TIME WHEN MANY NEW DOCTORS ARE GOING INTO SPECIALTY PRACTICES - AND MANY PATIENTS ARE SCRAMBLING TO FIND A FAMILY PHYSICIAN - MCKAY LOVES BEING A FAMILY DOCTOR. HE PLANS TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION TO OUR TROUBLED HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM.”

Here’s some highlights of what I wrote…

I am a family doctor. I love being a family doctor. There is nothing else I would rather do.

As a recent graduate from the University of Western Ontario's family medicine residency program, I have reached my goal of becoming a specialist in family medicine. This means I am qualified to assess, treat, prescribe, listen, heal, teach, counsel, empathize and support my patients through their life experiences.
This is an important job and one I take seriously. Family medicine is the cornerstone of our Canadian health-care system. At a time when the institution of health care seems to be on the verge of crumbling, I feel there is no better time to be a new family doctor.
…without a family doctor, there would be no one to answer your everyday health questions or take care of your ongoing health needs. No one would be keeping track of your health history and co-ordinating your care with other specialists.
Of all physicians, family doctors know you best and always have your interests at heart.
The shortage of family doctors in recent years has only served to emphasize the importance of family medicine.
…there are many more reasons to choose family medicine as a specialty and career, than not. There is no other job in medicine that provides such variety in my day-to-day activities.
As a family doctor, my day can involve (to name only a few) taking care of in-hospital patients, minor surgical procedures, delivering babies, psychotherapy, palliative care and working emergency room shifts.
Another aspect of family medicine that I love is the diversity of patients I interact with. A family doctor will treat patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly and everyone in between.
In medical school, I liked all my specialty rotations, so choosing family medicine meant I could do a little bit of all the areas in medicine I enjoy.
…The shortage of family doctors is at a critical stage. Fewer medical school graduates are choosing careers in family medicine. With ever-increasing medical school debts, combined with a significant wage discrepancy between family doctors and other specialists, family medicine has lost some appeal…This is placing an increased workload and stress on current family doctors, as well as emergency rooms and other medical specialists.
…I would have no hesitation recommending a career in family medicine to anyone aspiring to be a doctor. There is no other area of medicine where you can be such an important and influential part of other people's lives.
…My decision will be hard, but I have no doubt the result will be very rewarding. After all, I'm a family doctor. I love being a family doctor and there's nothing else I would rather do

It's hard to believe that I wrote that almost 19 years ago. The story seems just about the same in 2023 as in 2004. Here’s hoping 20 years from now this article won’t keep feeling like déjà vu.

However, without hesitation even after all these years, I can still say I love being a family doctor and there’s nothing else I would rather do. I hope many of you feel the same.

As always, I welcome your comments, questions, ideas, and concerns. Reach out at or @FMChairChief on twitter.