Department Spotlight: Dr. Craig Olmstead

Meet Dr. Craig Olmstead


Dr. Craig Olmstead, is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Family Medicine, and a graduate of our London Urban residency program. He is currently practicing comprehensive full scope family medicine in Parkhill, ON, and involved in undergraduate teaching. 

Born and raised in the south end of London, ON, Dr. Olmstead attended Wilfred Laurier secondary school before moving away to complete his undergraduate degree in Mathematical Physics at the University of Waterloo, after which he went on to train to be a Nuclear Medicine Technologist, a joint program between the University of Toronto and the Michener Institute of Applied Health Sciences. He then studied medicine at Schulich Medicine, at Western University and completed his residency in family medicine at the Byron Family Medical Centre. He continued his training with a plus one in academic family medicine, and is currently enrolled as a student in the Masters of Clinical Science in Family Medicine program here at Schulich Medicine, focusing on Point of Care Ultrasound in outpatient primary care.

Dr. Olmstead is the sole family physician in the township of Parkhill, ON, where he has been practicing full spectrum rural medicine for the last two years. He is a part of a group of 11 physicians with offices in Alisa Craig and Strathroy.

Dr. Olmstead’s full model rural practice includes hospitalist work through Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital, home visits, and after-hours care, plus one half-day per week at Prisma Health Care Collaborative clinic located in the east end of London.

“What does full scope mean?” asked Dr. Olmstead. “To me, from an outpatient perspective, it means doing as much as I can within the clinic, anything that can’t or shouldn’t be passed off to someone else.”

Dr. Olmstead is inspired by those patients who really need that extra care of attention.

In Parkhill, a big focus of his is on getting more patients into the clinic and prioritizing those in the greatest need of care. Being a new-in-practice physician with the opportunity to take on new patients, ensure high-needs patients are getting adequate care is an on-going challenge.

“Despite practicing outside the city, I still do the work in London with PRISMA because it is tailored to those who are also really vulnerable, and in need of regular primary care physicians,” said Dr. Olmstead.

Being fairly new at practice, Dr. Olmstead recognizes it’s a challenge to do the things you want to do, and everyone knows needs to be done, in different areas of medicine. There are always competing demands from a patient care prospective, a teaching prospective, and a research prospective. However, he is finding balance and the time to teach.

“Teaching has always been something I’ve been involved and interested in doing as part of my practice,” said Dr. Olmstead.

His involvement in mentoring students and clinical teaching ultimately led Dr. Olmstead to the plus one program in academic family medicine, which focuses on both teaching and research in family medicine.

“Teaching is a big part of the program, and a key driver,” said Dr. Olmstead.

He began supervising learners during his plus one year at Byron Family Medical Centre, but then halfway through his training the pandemic hit, and everything changed.

“We had to pivot and learn to teach with different modalities,” said Dr. Olmstead.

Since starting his own practice, Dr. Olmstead has been involved with teaching medical students in various capacities, and he appreciates the challenges that come with that.

“Didactic teaching, such as the teaching I do through the year 1 foundations course, is a different challenge to clinical teaching with medical students or residents,” said Dr. Olmstead. “It requires so much more prep work to do effectively and reliably.”

Dr. Olmstead sees his clinic in Parkhill as an excellent training spot for learners. It’s a spacious clinic and the work environment includes a well-rounded group of support staff. And while it offers a true rural experience, it is commutable from London.

“In our area, we’re eager for learners,” said Dr. Olmstead. “I would love to get more learners and/or researchers out and involved in Parkhill to experience the unique challenges we have, and to work through those challenges.”

A big part of those challenges is access to primary care.

“If I don’t take on a patient without a family doctor, they probably won’t have a doctor,” said Dr. Olmstead. “In many cases, it’s me or no one.”

Dr. Olmstead and his colleagues are committed to trying to make sure access is as good as possible. The clinic has recently taken on a Nurse Practitioner who is taking on more patients in the area. He recognizes there is a limitation on the number of providers available, and the goal is to use them efficiently. “Being able to bring learners through both PRISMA and the hospital in Strathroy when on rotation with me helps exemplify the importance of primary care access. At PRISMA in particular, we see patients who otherwise would have no regular primary care, and who often have had no primary care for quite some time. In Strathroy, it is quite clear the challenges faced when our patients do not have an accessible primary care provider. The options for safe management are significantly broader when we have a community family physician or nurse practitioner to rely upon at discharge.”

“Our community is inclusive and supportive of each other,” said Dr. Olmstead. “I know primary care providers nearby who are also working hard to cover the demand in the area while stretched thin themselves. It has been a constant challenge.”

Although he is an early practice clinician, Dr. Olmstead says there’s nothing quite like the experience of having a student come through expressing an interest in family medicine, and then having them match to a program and succeed in their career path.

“I’m quite proud of the learners that have come through and what they do after, in residency and beyond.”

Dr. Olmstead enjoys spending what free time he gets with his young family, including his two daughters, 2.5 and 5, gardening, reading and playing soccer.