Practising for thirty years and still a good sport

Living and working on Hospital Road since April 1, 1987

With all that practice, Mike’s golf swing is actually getting quite good – his game fine tuned, settling at a healthy handicap of seven.

Coincidentally, Dr. Makin has also been practicing medicine in Canada for over three decades and its safe to say he has got that pretty well down too. But everybody in Vanderhoof knows that.

Not sure why they call it “practicing” because, of course, by the time physicians are qualified and “practice-eligible” they are certainly more than simply well qualified.

For a small rural town like ours, we are very fortunate to have such consistently reliable healthcare. Vanderhoof continues to recruit and retain top quality medical professionals who in most cases stay on much longer than they ever intend to.

Dr. Makin’s story is no different. It was in 1987 when Dr. Makin, or “Mike” as he doesn’t mind being called, arrived in Canada for a six month working holiday. “Thirty years and three children later, I am a proud Canadian and hockey fanatic!”

Mike is absolutely passionate about sports. While slogging away at med school Mike found time to play professional cricket, bowling for the Province of Natal, touring at the equivalent of NHL level.

Dr. Makin’s competitive nature and love of winning has played out many a time. Likewise in his job search and determination to get a foothold in beautiful British Columbia.

Dr. Makin’s first hand written letter addressed to the Omineca Medical Clinic in Oct. 1986 was initially turned down because “the position had already been filled”.

Fortunately for us that didn’t stop Mike. He wrote again in January, another surprisingly neat letter. And second time around secured a locum, starting a couple of months later on April 1, 1987.

And the rest, as they say, is history. He has already delivered babies of babies he delivered. Dr. Makin has proven to be a remarkable doctor for no less than 18,000 patients over the years. The others just switched doctors.

But seriously, we all know he’s been good at his job from the start, but what not a lot of people may know about Dr. Makin, is how extremely qualified and accomplished he really is.

Not only does he have all the necessary credentials and experience one might expect from a medical practitioner, he also has some very significant academic achievements that the certification his office wall only hint at.

Dr. Makin’s resume outlines nine years of full time medical training, including two years specialising in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, plus two years’ military conscription serving as a doctor for the South African military.

Once in Canada he aced three Canadian certification examinations (MCCQE-1, MCCQE-2 and LMCC) and just kept on going.

Adding to his postgraduate qualifications; voluntarily challenging the CCFP (Certificate of Added Competence in Family Medicine). This earned Dr. Makin special designation membership of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

According to the BCMA, just passing the CCFP is an achievement “So outstanding as to serve as an inspiration to the medical profession.”

In this CCFP exam Dr. Makin not only got the top mark in B.C., he won the David Bachop Award.

The B.C. Medical Association (BCMA) explains on their website that “The Dr. David M Bachop Award is given to a B.C. doctor who has made an extraordinary contribution in the field of organized medicine and community service.”

This is the layperson’s equivalent of Dr. Makin being diagnosed with an extreme case of basically just showing off.

Mike is evidently a show off! Or possibly he was just born that way, a natural overachiever, growing in family of nurses and doctors.

Still the top mark in B.C. wasn’t enough for Dr. Michael David Makin. His 97% grade also won him the Irwin Bean Award which goes to the individual with the top mark in the whole of Canada.

Although we can agree this top spot is the highest standing among candidates, I think most people reading this are with me when I say “I’d still like to know what happened to the other three percent.”

In the past 15 years Dr. Makin’s Continued Medical Education courses have added skills in Advanced Life Support in Cardiovascular, Trauma, Obstetrics, Neonatal and Pediatric emergencies.

Mike pointed out, however, that among his colleagues this is merely par for the course. His is by no means the only doctor’s office with fancy certificates and highest level recognition framed behind glass – he has been priviledged to work in excellent company.

“We certainly have never drawn a short straw when it comes to recruiting medical professionals,” said Mike; “It’s not just the doctors, the nurses are incredible and our admin and clinic staff are literally life savers as well.”

Although we sometimes put them up on a pedestal, doctors are no different to the vast majority of northerners, who are fully engaged in broader society.

They too roll up their sleeves and join in the opportunity to make an extraordinary contribution to the community outside of working hours. “We’re a really diverse bunch with interests in a wide range of activities,” said Mike.

A multi-talented group of docs for sure, involved in various sports, art, horse riding, speed skating, chess, theatre, music, you name it.

Mike recalls learning how to skate. At age 36 he first tried on a pair of hockey skates.

Mike went on to help coach minor hockey for at least 12 years and play with the “Old Timers” for two decades.

He’s only recently hung up his skates, taking it easy on the ice ever since he broke his elbow tripping over a puck on a backyard rink.

I asked what it was about Vanderhoof in those early years that helped him stay more than six months. Mike said it was for sure the fact that he had Sally’s full support.

Their marriage has indeed survived many a 100 hour work week equating to at least 150,000 hours’ worth of shifts.

Now that the nest is empty, Mike and Sally will travel as often as they can.

The two of them have just returned from a six week holiday across Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Sally said she could have happily continued on. Mike, however, was glad to return home and it had nothing to do with him being singled out for an “Old people” classification train ticket. Sally, obviously, his younger travelling companion.

Smiling from the back nine Mike says “I have no definite retirement plans, but I ensure that I take my full holiday allowance.”

If not travelling or travailing Hospital Road, Mike can be found on the golf course, at the gym or out walking and running. Good luck keeping pace with him!

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