No one knows the importance of rural medicine like Dr. Etienne van der Linde, site chief of the Dr. G.B. Cross Memorial Hospital in Clarenville.
On May 27, van der Linde was honoured by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) as one of the annual emergency physicians of the year. He was presented with the award in Halifax at the CAEP conference.
Having lived and worked in Clarenville for 18 years, van der Linde is an advocate for rural health care and fittingly, was presented with the award as one of the five rural and small urban physicians who were nominated and selected by their peers across the country. This was the first time there was a rural category for the award.
“It represents an important step forward in national recognition for the practice of emergency medicine, not just in urban locations, but inclusive of rural locations,” said van der Linde.
Calling the honour humbling, he’s also proud to represent rural Canada with the recognition. He told The Packet he’d never trade in his position for one in a bustling metropolitan city.
“I believe in rural communities and I believe rural people matter,” he continued. “We’re supposed to get the same standard of care as anybody in an urban location. The public deserves that as well.”
He says rural recognition is important, and he hopes – through proper representation – important issues like attracting physicians to small communities will continue to be addressed.
“I truly believe it’s in the rural public’s interest that we actively advocate, not just emergency medicine, but for rural medical care in general,” said van der Linde.
Doctors are mobile by nature, he says. You either “get” rural or you don’t. While many physicians end up in large urban centres, he also thinks there are many benefits to rural areas as well.
Now, van der Linde in continuing to promote rural health care. He is the chairman of the rural and small urban section of the CAEP, after the annual general meeting, he is now in the same role for the CAEP board of directors.
It’s the first time a doctor from Newfoundland and Labrador has been a member in either an urban or rural capacity. He will now be able to contribute with how Canadian emergency medicine policy standards and guidelines are set.
Combined with his involvement with other organizations, he will continue to advocate for matters that affect those in rural communities, like patient accessibility, rural resources and staffing and more.
Van der Linde says he’s interested in and actively working with Memorial University’s emergency medical program, continuing training for doctors and spreading across the province.
“Part of this is motivation to look rural and look what can be achieved rural,” he says. “And we’re actively engaging with Memorial University to expand the emergency medicine program to our smallest, little rural emergency department.”
Looking back on his time as a physician, van der Linde looks ahead to everything he can do to improve health care in places like this region.
“It can be a challenging environment, but it has never ceased to provide me with immense job satisfaction over the past 30 years,” he says.
“It is, and always has been, a privilege to serve and advocate for rural patients. Rural matters.”