General · 9th August 2013
Dr Mary Boegel
Over the past eleven years since I’ve been coming to Quadra Island I’ve met many of you as neighbors, community members, and in my role as a locum physician at the Quadra Island Medical Clinic. Now I am planning to begin a fulltime medical practice on Quadra.
This is to introduce myself to those of you whom I haven’t yet met. I was born and raised on Long Island, New York, but did my Family Medicine training in northern California and practiced there from 1989 until recently. I first came to Quadra from California in August 2002 on a family sea kayaking vacation with my partner, Rachel Tolmachoff, and our two sons.
Rachel and I were awestruck by the beauty of this place and quite taken by the friendliness of all the people we met here.
On that trip, I learned that the doctors then on Quadra, Dr. Francis and Dr. Burns, were leaving practice and there would be a need for new GP’s to practice here.
Amazingly, my path toward practicing on Quadra began to take shape. Rachel, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen who was raised in the U.S., had always dreamed of living in Canada. When our vacation came to an end we were sad to leave and had thoughts of maybe, someday, retiring here. But, on the ferry to Campbell River, I noticed a poster for a beautiful home for sale on Heriot Bay Road. I mentioned it to Rachel, who was intrigued and immediately called the number on the poster. Once we had arrived in Victoria on our way home, she received a call from the sellers and decided to drive back to look at the property.
By an incredible stroke of luck, she happened to meet Dr.Erika Kellerhals on the ferry to Quadra. That very morning, Dr. Kellerhals had made a decision to open a practice on Quadra and was hoping to find a partner to practice with here. Rachel immediately offered me up as, at least, a temporary practice helper! It is still amazing to recall the surprising synchronicity of all those events. The short story is that we bought the house and I began regular summer working-vacations on Quadra.
Since 2003 I have done locums for Dr. Kellerhals and, later, for both Dr. Kellerhals and Dr. Graham when he joined her practice. I have deeply enjoyed working at Quadra Island Medical Clinic (QIMC). I’ve found both doctors skilled clinicians, the clinic staff warm and caring people, and the patients interesting folks who were very open to having me serve their medical needs.
The work environment for doctors in the U.S. is stressful. We struggle with the fact that many people are uninsured and, for those that are insured, there are many insurance companies who impose regulations on the care doctors can provide. It is costly to bill insurers to be paid for the work we do. We end up serving many people in emergency departments when the primary care that would have prevented an emergency has been withheld from the patient due to cost.
I have always been delighted that we can serve almost all comers at QIMC. Canadians had the wisdom years ago to develop a single payer, universal health care system that we still haven’t matched in the U.S. The MSP system here is not at all perfect, but it works pretty well for almost everyone and that is an incredible gift you all give each other as Canadians.
So, when Dr. Kellerhals asked me a year ago if I might want to move to Quadra and take over the clinic here, I was very tempted. At that time, unfortunately, I was unable to make a full time move here. My younger son, at age 18, was not quite ready to be fully independent and I was committed to a practice in California. I thought long and hard about my decision, but had to tell Dr. Kellerhals that it just wasn’t going to work for
me last year.
But, thoughts of Quadra lingered. Over the next several months, it became clear that my practice in the California Bay Area was unsustainable. I was working 14 hour days and had no time to practice the healthy lifestyle of regular exercise, meditation and mindfulness I was preaching to my patients. When I thought about the ideal practice environment I’d like to work in, my thoughts would come back to Quadra.
Finally, last January, Rachel and I decided it was time to make the move. I called Dr. Kellerhals, anxious to know if her offer to work at Quadra Island Medical Clinic still stood. In fact, Dr. Kellerhals had been working for months with the Vancouver Island Health Authority to recruit another physician and she was very happy to have me fill that spot. She was also working with VIHA to have a Nurse Practitioner placed on Quadra
and I was very interested in working at a multi-clinician center. Around that time, in late January, Dr. Graham made a decision to begin an independent practice here, so I’ll miss the opportunity to work in a joint practice with him and Dr. Kellerhals. But, Quadra Island has now been awarded the Nurse Practitioner position and I look forward to the broader perspective she (or he) will bring to our medical community.
It’s a big move to pull up our California and U.S. roots and settle fulltime on Quadra. Rachel and I are leaving both of our adult sons, many friends, and connections behind. Because of that, we’ve decided to make this a trial year to see how things work out for us here. We want this move to be a success and are both interested in integrating more fully into Quadra life.
Some of my thoughts about health care on Quadra include welcoming an integrated network of providers at our clinic, working with public health nurses to offer all islanders fully updated immunizations, starting group visits to tackle common chronic problems like hypertension and diabetes, and incorporating healthy lifestyle habits into my life along with my patients. There’s a program in B.C. called “Walk with the Doc” that I’d like to get going here. I’m also planning an outreach clinic on Read Island and perhaps a bit farther afield. I am anxious to start meeting many of you at QIMC. I will be doing 3 weeks of locum work for Dr. Kellerhals over the summer and starting my practice at QIMC on August 19. I am open to new patients and definitely open to all of your ideas about promoting better health for all of us on Quadra.
Mary Boegel, M.D.
Comment by Deb Cowper on 11th August 2013
Thanks for your introductory letter, Mary, and for coming to join us here on Quadra...we welcome you as friend, committed community member, and physician!