Dr Keith Wycliffe–Jones, senior GP, Clinical Senior Lecturer with the University of Aberdeen and Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners left his full time practice in Inverness, Scotland, after a year’s sabbatical in the Canadian province of Alberta led him to a lifestyle transformation.
He and his family have now permanently re-located to Calgary to enjoy, as Keith puts it, “a growing city with a very attractive lifestyle, a very dry climate, a positive ambience and better professional flexibility with opportunities and freedom to balance my clinical and academic work”.
Keith accepted the offer of his job in January 2005 and his family arrived in Alberta in October 2005 with their permanent residency completed in June 2006. They are obviously delighted with the way things have turned out.
Calgary, a boom town of over a million people, has a very positive economy largely due to oil and gas production and enjoys the beautiful scenery of the nearby Rockies. This provides Keith and his family with a wide range of year round activities and the opportunity of “6 months skiing in Banff from early November right through till the end of May, every weekend, every year”.
As Keith says, “because Calgary has a very dry climate (unlike Scotland!), so many days during the winter months are sunny with blue sky. Calgary also enjoys occasional warming Chinook Winds which warm everyone up, even in the middle of winter”.
There are many reasons why an increasing number of professional clinicians are opting for the Albertan style. Socially, as Dr Wycliffe-Jones informs, “the people here are great . . . very positive about anything and everything you do.
People are hard working but this is balanced by limitless opportunities for outdoor and indoor activities, all year round. This means the kids (and adults!) are never bored”.
“The schools are active partners in the communities and I have been really impressed with how our kids have grown in their schools.” Dr Keith Wycliffe-Jones points to the “Citizenship awards” given by schools as an example of the emphasis on social responsibility as well as skills. As Keith says “Calgary has many different types of schools and approaches – public, semi-private and private with a very positive learning environment for kids at elementary and High school levels”.
“Sport is huge and the kids can take part in whatever they want . . . soccer is massive in Calgary during the Summer and Ice Hockey takes over in the winter. Then, of course, there’s the ski-ing”. Keith’s family love “the outdoor activities, summer and winter” along with the opportunities for travel to other parts of Canada and the western States of America, including Washington, Idaho and Montana.
Dr Wycliffe-Jones’ experiences as a UK GP are highly valued and his opinions and views relating to health care are requested and respected. He enjoys the advantages of working in an academic post in the Department of Family Medicine in Calgary and a reduced clinical workload compared with that which he encountered in Scotland. He now has adequate time for his academic work which, as he says, “I had struggled to include with my full time GP position in the UK. The two academic departments in Alberta are small compared with some other Canadian and UK centres and this appeals to me . . . it’s easy to get to know people and to generate collaborations and friendships”.
Keith is now Associate Professor in Family Medicine at the University of Calgary, a Residency Training Preceptor for Family Medicine, Interim Clerkship Director of Family Medicine and also operates a clinical workload for 4 half days per week.
He clearly feels a sense of development and of “being on the edge” as Family Medicine moves over ground, perhaps already covered in the UK. He feels that “this is an exciting time for Family Medicine and, as such, an exciting and dynamic time to be involved in academic work in Alberta”. He and his family have settled quickly and have a very strong affinity with the high quality lifestyle and the professional and social environment of Alberta. As Keith points out, if you enjoy winter, “Alberta is a beautiful province with stunning mountains, glacier fed lakes, forests, rivers and rolling foot-hills with ranches and great, great beef.” Good idea - that sabbatical in 2003!
Here are some comments from Dr. Wycliffe-Jones, regarding his experience of the immigration process:
- “Patience is important. It felt like a long time. I accepted the job offer in January 2005 and had the necessary work permits for myself and my wife by September 2005.
- Be prepared for a lot of collating and collecting of documents, police checks etc. and I had minimal interaction back from Immigration Canada in the UK.
- At the same time as applying for work permits to allow me to take up my post, I also applied for permanent residency.
- We arrived in Canada at the end of October 2005 and had our permanent residency completed in June 2006, having submitted our application in early 2005. I have to say I can’t think there were any positive aspects of this process.
- The Alberta government did contact me in the Spring of 2006 to indicate they would support me as a “preferred person” or a term similar to this but as our Permanent Residency was imminent, and this would have involved resubmitting yet more documents, we chose to just stick with our original application.
- I think you have to like winter and especially winter activities, to come here. Alberta is a beautiful province . . . stunning mountains, glacier fed lakes, forests, rivers and rolling foot-hills with ranches and great, great beef!”