ST. ANTHONY, N.L. – St. Anthony pathologist Dr. Kweku Dankwa is one of the latest recipients of the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada’s Lifetime Membership Award.
And he credits the community where he’s made his home for the last 23 years as a big factor in the honour.
The award was presented to Dankwa at the SRPC’s 26th Annual Rural and Remote Medicine Course, at the St. John’s Convention Centre on April 13.
He was one of five recipients this year.
To be eligible, doctors have to be 65 years of age or older and a member of the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) for more than 10 consecutive years.
Dankwa had just turned 65 in April.
He told the Northern Pen he was unaware he was receiving the honour.
“I had no clue,” he said. “They must have sent a message, but I did not see it. It was a big surprise to me. It’s good to be recognized.”
Since 1995, Dankwa has served as regional pathologist at Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony.
From 1999 to 2005, he served as the vice president of Medical Services with the Grenfell Regional Health Authority.
And, since 2005, he has served in a similar capacity as associated vice president of Medical Services with the amalgamated Labrador-Grenfell Health Authority.
According to Dankwa, winning an award such as this would not have been possible without the community’s support.
He says it’s because the town of St. Anthony made him and his family feel welcome that they have stayed for the past 23 years.
“If I didn’t feel welcome, my family didn’t feel welcome and we hadn’t stayed, I would not have qualified for the award,” he said. “(The award is) a credit to the community, the people and the society.”
Pleasure of working in St. Anthony
When Dankwa moved to St. Anthony with his family in 1995, it was his first time working in a rural setting.
The Ghana native had previously worked in his home country, as well as Nigeria, United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.
When they were in the United States, Dankwa and his family decided they’d like to go somewhere new.
“The person who I was working with happened to be a Canadian said, ‘Why not try Canada?’” Dankwa recalled. “That is how I begin. I applied for jobs and the only reason why I’m in St. Anthony is they were the first people to respond to my application.”
He did not know what to expect as he moved and settled down in rural Newfoundland.
“I had no clue where I was going,” he said. “But I’ve loved it since then.”
And, most importantly, his family also wanted to stay.
“My wife, being very happy here, and so were the children, made it a lot easier,” said Dankwa. “And it was because of the community, the type of people in the community, that made a big difference for her too.”
Indeed, one of the advantages of working in a rural setting, he has discovered, is the sense of feeling like a member of a community.
“What makes a big difference is living and closely working with the people that you serve,” he said. “And having a community that is very supportive. I find the people in St. Anthony and northern Newfoundland and Labrador are very genuine and very appreciative of the service you offer.
“You begin to feel a part of the community yourself. That makes it satisfying, being a part of the community, and not just an individual floating through.”
Dankwa also takes great pleasure in his work at Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital.
As a pathologist, he says he gets to see a wide range of cases.
“When it comes to the work, the range of things that I do, makes it appealing to me,” he said.
And he says his staff is “very pleasant” to work with.
“You feel happy going in to work,” he said.
Challenges in rural setting
However, there are some challenges to working at a rural hospital.
Dankwa says it’s sometimes difficult to get certain things you need.
And having to break everything down into numbers makes it more difficult to justify certain things you need to do.
“When they talk about numbers, in rural communities you can’t really use numbers,” he said. “We have challenges of distances, challenges of access and all those issues. So, when they use certain points that don’t really favour rural communities, it becomes a major thing.”
Furthermore, he thinks the distance from bigger centres makes it more difficult to keep staff.
“I think that is part of the reason a lot of people actually move out, to be near bigger centres, to be able to fly out when they need to,” he said.
In his position, Dankwa often works alone. And he says he virtually has no breaks and may have to come in to work on weekends or on holidays.
The only time when he’s not on call is when he’s on vacation.
But he doesn’t mind.
“I just love doing what I’m doing, so I continue to do that,” he said.
Along with the community, and the hospital staff, Dankwa also wished to thank Labrador-Grenfell Health.
“I’m grateful they appointed me here and I’m very grateful to continue on with Labrador-Grenfell Health,” he said.