SUMMERSIDE – He may be one of the country’s top family physicians, but Dr. Paul Kelly is characteristically humble about the honour.
The 67-year-old Summerside native is one of 10 family doctors from across the nation who will receive the Reg L. Perkin Award from the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) on Nov. 12 in Toronto.
But the running joke among local doctors, Kelly said, is that one physician from the province receives the award every year, since the CFPC chooses one nominee from each of its member provinces.
“If you practise here long enough, you’re likely to end up with this award,” Kelly laughed. “But it’s humbling to be recognized by your peers. My colleague from Kensington, Peter MacKean, when he got the award a few years ago, his acceptance speech was that he was accepting the award on behalf of family docs on the Island who were working every day at their jobs and trying to do the best they can.
“That’s the message that I’m trying to get across as well.”
If Kelly’s 40-year career could be summed up in one word, it would be “collaboration.”
He began practising in Newfoundland, where he worked with some of the country’s first nurse practitioners. From there, he moved on to locums in Cape Breton, N.S., and Woodstock, N.B.
Kelly then took his medical skills to Botswana, Africa, in 1975. He worked in the country for two years, mainly treating children for measles and malnutrition.
When he returned to P.E.I., he found the team environment at the Summerside Medical Centre to suit his style of practice. He worked there for 25 years before moving downtown into his current offices at Harbourside Health Centre in 2004.
“The way the (Summerside) Medical Centre is organized, it looks after the business of medicine and allows you to deal with your own practice,” he said. “When I came down here to Harbourside, it was another opportunity to work with advanced-practice nurses who had extra training in chronic disease management. They helped me look after some of my chronically ill patients.
“Again, we’re working closely with other doctors in a team… and we often collaborate on different cases.”
Kelly continues his teamwork philosophy with a Prince County Hospital board that includes two other family doctors, home care and hospital nurses, a Chaplin and social workers to provide support to other family doctors who have patients in palliative care.
Although he may be nearing the end of his career, creating the best possible scenarios for his patients is always top of mind.
“It was a big change for me to come down here (to Harbourside) from the medical centre, where I was the only one seeing the patient. Here, they might see me, they might see the nurse, might see the nurse practitioner. But they know that I’m still involved in their care,” Kelly said. “As a physician who’s 67 and looking towards the end of his career, I can reassure the patients that they have a medical home here. Even if I left tomorrow… they would have someone to look after them.”