Despite a slight delay due to COVID-19, Penetanguishene is welcoming a new family doctor.
Dr. Byron Song recently opened a family practice in town, joining Dr. Obi Olisa at The Village Clinic that's located within the Georgian Village complex at 101 Thompsons Rd.
David Gravelle, the area physician recruitment officer, said Song’s recruitment shows the local family physician recruitment program’s strategy is working.
“Our focus has been on recruitment through education,” Gravelle said. “Our success rate from the University of Toronto rural residency program is outstanding, with most of the residents remaining to work either in the community, at Georgian Bay General Hospital, or both.”
Gravelle said the region still needs another 20 new family doctors due to an estimated 3,000-5,000 “orphaned patients” throughout the region.
“We also have a large number of residents who have family physicians outside our catchment area,” Gravelle told MidlandToday. “These are people who have retired up here for example, but continue to access their family doctor elsewhere in the province (ie: GTA).
“We also have a number of (physician) retirements expected over the next number of years that will put 10,000 to 14,000 residents at risk. The replacement ratio to replace an established family doctor with a traditionally large practice is 2.5 to one.”
As for the newest recruit, Song graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor of science and a master of science in laboratory medicine and pathobiology and initially planned a career as a researcher. But he changed course after deciding that connecting with people on a more personal level had to be part of his future.
He opted to attend Western University in London for his medical degree, followed by the University of Toronto’s rural family medicine residency program; with his final year of training in Midland under the tutelage of Dr. Jeff Golisky.
“I had a wonderful year in Midland,” Song said. “I learned an incredible amount from my preceptors and felt very integrated into the community.”
Song even got involved as a trainer for the Penetang Kings, joking that “I was never really into hockey before, but found myself yelling at the top of my lungs at every goal.
Song’s final few months as a trainee in Midland included the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. While medical students were sent home, he continued in his role as a resident physician conducting virtual and in-person family medicine visits, and working at the hospital.
That experience helped shape his decision to stay in the area.
“Even though there was so much uncertainty surrounding how to deal with the virus, everyone really came together so that the impact on the community could be minimized,” Song said.
“I got to be part of the hospital while it was actively undergoing new protocols and policies to control the spread. It felt good showing up each day to the hospital with fellow frontline workers amidst the pandemic.”
After completing his training, COVID-19 delayed the writing of his final Canadian College of Family Medicine exam. However, this delay allowed Song to refine the type of practice he wanted to launch and to seek a physician counterpart to join.
“There are a lot of ideas I want to incorporate into my practice but the main one right now is telemedicine,” he said.
“I’ve always felt that so much of what would constitute an office visit could be safely and effectively accomplished with a telephone or video conference call. I think that telemedicine has a far greater utility than merely during a pandemic and will become an integral part of everyday practice.”
And joining Olisa seems like a perfect fit, according to Song.
“Dr. Olisa had been a part of the pilot program for OTN (Ontario Telemedicine Network) and was already incorporating telemedicine into his practice way before COVID-19,” Song explained. “It was a perfect fit in terms of interests and vision. For myself, I am certainly grateful to get to start working with someone who is already a veteran in this area.”
Song is accepting new patients via The Village Clinic’s booking system or by calling 705-300-0016. The streamlined intake process is for patients who do not have a family physician or whose doctor is located outside the North Simcoe Muskoka Region.