For 1st time, N.W.T. doctor named one of Canada's Family Physicians of the Year

Dr. David Pontin is an emergency room physician in Yellowknife, N.W.T. He moved to the territory in 2006. He recently won a national award for family physicians in Canada. (Submitted by David Pontin - image credit)
Dr. David Pontin is an emergency room physician in Yellowknife, N.W.T. He moved to the territory in 2006. He recently won a national award for family physicians in Canada. (Submitted by David Pontin - image credit)

A Yellowknife-based doctor has won a top, country-wide accolade.

Dr. David Pontin has been named one of Canada's Family Physicians of the Year. The College of Family Physicians of Canada distributes the distinction.

It's the first time ever a Northwest Territories doctor has won the award.

Pontin, who has been working in the N.W.T. since 2006, has several accomplishments under his belt.

One is the establishment of one of northern Canada's only residency training program for family physicians, based in Yellowknife. The program started in 2020, after almost 10 years of work, Pontin said.

"It's been a labour of love. And it's working really well," he said. "Our first two residents graduated this last year. And both of them are signed on and sticking around in the North."

He's also worked a co-founder of a northern medical conference based in Yellowknife for primary care doctors, nurse practitioners and community health nurses.

This year was the first for the conference, which happened in September. Pontin said it's just a way of learning together, and bringing professionals together after the pandemic.

He said his "first and foremost reason" for loving his work in the North is the patients he gets to see.

"I think I'm fortunate in a way that I have a job that provides me a deep, deep sense of satisfaction and a deep sense of meaning. So, for me to go to work and to be able to see patients every day is a really, really important way that I keep myself charged up," Pontin said.

"And then of course, this opportunity to be able to work in really fantastic projects, and also to work with extraordinary teams. And so I gotta be honest, work for me is is an area where I get a lot of charge."

There are a "number of other reasons," he said, including the opportunities to be innovative in his practice in ways he might not be able to in the South.

"The North is for me a bit of a space that I can be creative, that I can get involved with really exciting projects, that if I have a good idea, I can work on it and make it happen," Pontin said.

"I've always felt, and I've said this many times, that I feel like I have a sense of agency."

When it comes to challenges in northern health care, Pontin said those are reflected across the country.

"There's no question the last couple of years have been an unprecedented challenge for the whole country, not just health care. In health care, we went from that initial sprint in 2020, to what then became a very, very exhausting marathon, and which in many ways, is continuing," he said.

He said the biggest immediate challenge is managing "a lot of exhausted health-care staff and a high level of burnout."

"I think, especially in primary care, one of the big opportunities for us right now is that primary care is front and centre politically across the country in ways that it hasn't been for probably many decades," he said.

"And within that attention is enormous potential to make a lot of changes, and I think there's a lot of reforms that need to be made."