Owen Averill

Physician at Whitehorse Medical Services Ltd.

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.), Contemporary Studies and Economics, 2004

I figured medicine would be a good combination of the humanities and science.

Owen Averill can look out on his lawn and see deer browsing, maybe a fox slinking by. Out back there are biking trails, but word of a sow grizzly bear and her two cubs hanging around is keeping him off those paths.

“Attacks are few and far between, but we see them on occasion,” Owen says. If and when they happen though, there’s a good chance he’ll be the doctor on call to tend to the wounds.

Owen is a family physician in Whitehorse, Yukon. It is, to say the least, a busy gig.

“I have a family practice in a clinic. I work shifts in the hospital Emergency Department. I take care of patients who have been admitted to the hospital. I have patients in nursing homes and long term care. I have a small outlying community practice where I do clinics once a month outside of Whitehorse. I am on call for them all the time.”

Medicine might not be the first choice of a career for most who take Contemporary Studies and Economics. But Owen says, “I thought it would be a good challenge. Before going to King’s I was all science, all the time. So I thought I’d go to King’s and shift gears. I figured medicine would be a good combination of the humanities and science.”

And he’s found that it has been.

“A lot of the things that I was exposed to at King’s are the foundations of the ethics I use every day as a doctor - from patients’ rights to resource stewardship - all of these are overarching concepts. King’s gave me the framework to work with those.”

Owen and his wife Heidi Laing (BAH ’04) moved to Whitehorse in 2013. They wanted to go north, picked a point on a map and started cold calling. The job soon followed. Owen had to quickly adapt.

He says, “Sometimes you’re on an overnight shift in the Emergency Department and you think, hey, I’m the only doctor working and I’m responsible for the whole territory! But mostly it is pretty quiet.”

Still, he does encounter illnesses and ailments he has seen maybe once before, maybe never.

“We are pretty well supported up here,” he says. When he does run into something out of his comfort zone, Owen says he can call specialists in Vancouver or Edmonton. “They can talk me through it,” he says.

That’s a part of the job he loves: learning - constantly learning. “It’s very much a generalist practice. I’m a jack-of-all-trades and I like that.”

Owen does admit that it can be stressful at times. But he laughs and says, “My wife jokes that I am a kind of stressed-out high-strung person anyway so I might as well have important things to worry about. But it works the opposite way and calms me down.”

And that’s probably a good thing for a family physician who is pretty much on call all the time.

Posted: Jan. 2018

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