Dr. George Magee has been practicing medicine in Burns Lake for 44 years.
He arrived in Burns Lake in 1968, with his new wife Bernice in tow. The couple had visited Burns Lake earlier on their honeymoon and it was then that they made the decision to return to Burns Lake to live.
“I was a graduate of the University of Toronto and we had come to Burns Lake from Port Colborne, Alberta. Bernice and I were only planning to live here for two years,” he said
That two years has turned into a life time.
Just recently, Dr. Magee was honoured with a rural long service award by the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada at the 20 annual rural and remote medicine course, held in Whistler.
The award was presented by fellow rural doctors and was given for long and meritorious medical service to the Lakes District community.
Dr. Magee said to Lakes District News that receiving the award is a great honour. “The Society of Rural Physicians is a very important organization for rural physicians. Burns Lake has played a big role with this society and has been involved from the very beginning,” he said.
When Dr. Magee first chose to practice in Burns Lake, he said it was for the excitement of practicing a full slate of medicine, from general practice to obstetrics, that was once demanded from rural physicians,
“Medicine has changed so much over the years … now rural physicians don’t do as many of the things they would like to do, like delivering babies, anesthesia and managing surgical cases. These services are attractive to young doctors and that is why I had originally chosen to work in a rural area.”
Dr. Magee said working in Burns Lake allowed him to provide complete medical care for patients.
He explained that rural medicine differs from the scope of practice from that of physicians practicing in a city.
“The scope for rural physicians is greater and the skills and training required is greater. Rural physicians need to be able to deal with any number of medical issues, knowing that they cannot turn patients away.”
Dr. Magee was one of a number of physicians that helped to develop the ‘Manual of Rural Practice’ about 20 years ago.
The textbook is an instructive guide published by the Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine, for rural doctors.
He said the book took several years to compile and was initiated after he realized that B.C. medical school graduates lacked the medical skills required to work in rural communities.
Dr. Magee, shared the editing of the book with John Wootten from Quebec and Peter Hutten-Czapski from Ontario and said the book has since been used extensively by rural physicians in Canada and in Australia and New Zealand.
“The book was called the Burns Lake project, until it was published,” he said, adding that the book is due to be updated again.
“I will probably play a role in the updating of the book, along with other young doctors who have new ideas to add,” he said.
Two years ago Dr. Magee was inducted into the Northern Medical Society’s Hall of Fame, for his work in Northern B.C. which was one of the prerequisites for being awarded the rural long service award.
One of Dr. Magee’s most rewarding moments was delivering triplets. “These triplets just graduated from high school this year,” he said, adding that he feels it is important that new physicians have the opportunity to have these experiences.
However he also cautioned that there needs to be proper facilities in place to support these types of services in rural areas.
“The new Lakes District Hospital is a great thing for Burns Lake, but I don’t think the planning for the hospital is with the future of Burns Lake’s needs in mind. It will have an obstetrics suite that won’t be used because if an emergency cesarean section is required it has to be done within 30 minutes. Burns Lake is not within 30 minutes of an operating room. It is a career ender to lose a mother or baby, so physicians are not willing to risk deliveries without an operating room facility close by.”
As for the draw backs of being a rural physician, he said there is a lack of anonymity in a small community.
“I get medical questions when I am out on the street, or out having dinner,” he laughed.
Dr. Magee is now retired, but has been working on an as needed basis at the Burns Lake Medical Clinic to help with the gap in physician coverage.
Dr. Magee is still working in Prince George as a locum and has also worked as a locum in Fraser Lake in recent months