Dialogue Volume 13 Issue 3 2017 - Page 18

COUNCIL AWARD Dr. Stephenson and clinic staff see themselves as facilitators and gatekeepers to the many resources that can aid in their patients’ recovery. So, in addition to offering primary health care, they spend much of their time helping patients through everyday challenges and advocating on their behalf to ensure their patients receive much-needed services. Margaret Brockett, former executive director of the Canadian Occupational Therapists Association and the clinic’s current associate director, says, “Dr. Stephenson is an outstanding physician and leader [with] a passion for refugee medicine. He saw an unmet need among refugee newcomers and set out to meet that need. He has garnered respect from patients, colleagues and the wider community, and Kitchener-Waterloo is consid- ered a showpiece in the welcome given the recent influx of refugees.” lecture by a representative from the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture. The speaker had himself ex- perienced torture and spoke of the impact physicians had on his recovery by taking a holistic, supportive approach to his circumstances. His lecture showed me that, as a physician, you could walk with individuals who had been through this horror and help bring a sense of peace in their recovery. We recently spoke to Dr. Stephenson about his work: How did your medical training prepare you for practising ‘refugee health care’? I did my medical degree at Queen’s. When it came time to choose my residency program, I wanted something that had a broader impact in terms of my ability to make change. I ended up choosing McGill because they had a family medicine site with a refugee clinic. I did an elective there but found myself at the refugee clinic whenever I had free time. Going to the clinic helped me achieve my residency goals, but it also allowed me to further explore my interest in refugee health and under- stand how it is different from other types of care. When did you first become interested in refugee issues? I grew up in Ottawa, and in the 90s, when I was in high school, the first wave of Somali refugees arrived. Two of those refugees became my biology lab partners. I remember being very curious about what led them to Canada and for the first time, I realized there were people in our community who didn’t share the same experiences my friends and I took for granted, and that the world is a far bigger place than I’d imagined. Did you always intend to practise refugee health? Not at first. But there were a couple of events during medical school that led me to it. I used to travel a lot during the summer breaks, and one year I worked in a hospital in Rwanda. Working in Rwanda was an eye opening experience that helped me understand how differently medicine is practised around the world when you don’t have the same access to the same care and resources we have in Canada. The other pivotal experience came when I attended a 18 DIALOGUE ISSUE 3, 2017 Apart from providing necessary medical care, why is your work in the clinic so important? The people we serve have complex issues. While on the face of it, some of those issues – like housing and food – may not appear to be medical, they are issues that are intertwined with their health. And finding creative ways to help them meet their diverse challenges gives them a better chance to be physically and emotionally well. Tell us about your family I met my wife, Allison, while studying in Montreal. She is a professor in clinical psychology with a focus on eating disorders. We both share a desire to help margin- alized parts of our community that have distinct health and mental needs. And we have two amazing kids: Catherine is three and Kieran is nine months old. After the traumas I hear about at the clinic, I am grateful every day that I can raise them in Canada in peace and stability. MD