Pontiac welcomes new family doctor

EMILY HSUEH
In the midst of a shortage of healthcare workers, a new face has arrived in Shawville to help. She has practiced medicine on three different continents and now hopes to fill in a crucial role to serve those in need.
Dr. Maha Mikail started her position at the Lotus clinic in Shawville in October 2020 as a general family physician. She arrived at the tail-end of another doctor’s run at the clinic, Dr. Pinelo, and took on the patients that he looked after. With an interest in working in obstetrics, Mikail will be a much-needed addition to the team at the Pontiac Community Hospital in the delivery room.
The region’s newest doctor has been interested in the medical field since she was a young girl, living in her home country of Egypt. Her grandfather was a doctor, and she knew she wanted to follow the same path. She worked towards her degree in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, and graduated medical school in 2006.
She worked in Egypt for several years until her career moved her to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to work as a family doctor. Mikail, her husband and her son stayed in Dubai until 2014, when they decided to take their family across the globe.
They moved to Canada, Calgary specifically, for “quality of life, for the kids and their future, education and for their safety,” she explained. “Old people are having good lives. That’s why we decided to come here: a better future for the family.”
But there was quite a bit of adjustment to take in, especially for her medical career. Having already been an established physician for the last eight years, she found herself back nearly square one, having to retake exams to work in a new country.
“It was a big step in my life because being a doctor in my country and in Dubai, when I came here I had to restart all my exams. It was a little bit challenging but I was lucky because I had a lot of support from my husband and family,” she recalled. “It was tough in the beginning … But luckily I was able to do it.”
Another new aspect of the healthcare system in Canada was residency. After Mikail passed her exams, she was placed in residency in southern Quebec. She spent most of that time Quebec City, but also in the city of Saint-Georges, about an hour south of Quebec’s capital.
“It’s been a long trip,” she said.
Finally, the family settled in Aylmer in 2020, where Mikail said her family is happy and her two sons are enjoying school.
“When I decided to come to the Pontiac to see the area, I contacted the person who is responsible for positioning the physicians and she had me contact the owner of the clinic. We met and I saw this place and I visited the hospital.”
She chose to work in the Pontiac due to her affinity for rural areas, having had experience with rural medicine and environments.
“When I was in Egypt, I worked in a kind of rural area, and I liked working in rural areas. I also did training during my residency in Saint Georges south [in] Quebec and I liked working there. So I decided to work in the Pontiac,” she said. “I knew that there was a need for family doctors here so I took the decision.”
Another aspect she admires about practicing medicine in a small town is the opportunity to work in many different areas. With no specialization, she is able to help people in many ways, and thus help more people, which is exactly why she became a medical professional in the first place.
“I really like the medical field in general, if you have people that you can relieve their pain and suffering is the main thing that I like,” she expressed. “For family medicine, you get to have relationships with patients, you get to know them, and you follow the families together. Those are the reasons I got into family medicine.”
In particular, Mikail has an interest in obstetrics, which is a topic that has been plaguing the Pontiac Community Hospital for the last year. The unit closed last February due to lack of staff, and Mikail’s interest and willingness brings obstetrics one step closer to returning to the Pontiac.
“I like the idea of following the pregnancy, and to be there during the delivery because this was the baby that you followed. And to see the feelings of the parents, it’s very touching. After that, it’s you following the baby. So you get to see the family grow.”
For now, Mikail is doing follow-up with women throughout their pregnancies, but she is eager to begin work at the hospital and hopes it will re-open soon. As for her role as the Lotus Clinic, she has enjoyed meeting her new patients and being able to continue her work in rural health care.

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