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Teulon’s medical clinic continues to expand and evolve its delivery of health-care services to the area’s residents through successful efforts to welcome students and new practitioners to the family practice environment.

In his role as medical director of the clinic, Dr. Mike Loudon outlines some of the transformations over the decades, including positive recent developments to better serve the health-care needs of the community.

“Originally, if we go back 20 years, Teulon Medical Clinic had four physicians. We ran an emergency room, hospital and clinic,” he said.

“With changes in health care, physicians have moved away, which made supply of physicians to the clinic particularly difficult.”

In 2017, the community ended up with only one provider and needed to rethink how to deliver reliable and sustainable care from that point forward.

Work was already underway for a more collaborative approach, thanks to a health-care sustainability committee that began meeting monthly in 2015, offering input from municipal leaders, the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Teulon Health Care Foundation.

“We’ve had to build a stronger structure with different providers and different employment models to be able to look after the patients on a day-to-day basis,” Loudon said.

Today, the clinic offers services from allied health professionals as well as nurse practitioners Aravind Pampackal and Adrian Sawatzky and physician assistant Ashley Wicklund.

“They are all trained here and recruited in a similar way. No individual provider is more important than any other. They all form a significant foundation for Teulon Medical Clinic,” Loudon said.

“The big reason that Teulon is successful is because of the whole team environment. Going forward with the Clinical and Preventative Services Plan, these teams are going to be a cornerstone to what makes health care work.”

In addition to Loudon, the clinic offers the expertise of Dr. Victoria Kornelsen as well as Dr. Costa Danakas, who initially came to the community as a first-year medical student during the University of Manitoba’s Rural Week seven years ago.

“He was really interested in Teulon and how we did business here. He stayed in touch and subsequently joined us in July 2021 as a physician in the clinic,” Loudon said.

“We needed that growth, and there are more physicians who have come through the training program who will potentially join us in the future. I think any training that brings students to a community creates a better chance of attracting that student back to the community.”

As Danakas approaches his one-year anniversary at Teulon Medical Clinic, he reflects on the path that led him there.

“Rural Week was a good experience with a good team. It was my first clinical exposure, and Dr. Loudon was great to work with. We got along well, so we kept in touch,” Danakas said.

“Two years later, it was time for me to do my formal family medicine rotation and I came back for six weeks.”

Now Danakas works at the Teulon Medical Clinic on Mondays and Wednesdays, and he also treats patients in Teulon’s hospital. In addition, he works in Selkirk every Tuesday and often picks up additional shifts.

“In Teulon, one of the biggest benefits we have is the team of providers. And for medical students, these early experiences can help to motivate or direct their career. I think there’s value in that early rural exposure because it can create familiarity with what the job entails,” Danakas said.

“If they’re exposed to it early on and they have a good experience or good patient interaction, then I think it goes a long way in shaping their career choices.”

Coming full circle, Danakas recently worked with two first-year medical students, Stephen Dueck and Bhavan Dhaliwal, who were in Teulon for Rural Week from May 30 to June 3.

“I’m hoping that it was helpful for them,” Danakas said. “I would encourage them to consider coming back to Teulon or another rural community.”

For Dueck, Rural Week opened up the possibility to working in a community like Teulon.

“Rural lifestyle is, of course, very good in terms of the intimacy of community and access to nature,” he said.

“But we have also found incredible clinicians and support staff in our time here — their ability to work as a team, to think holistically about patient care, to work with various teams in the interests of their patient and practise evidence-based medicine was so inspiring to watch and be part of.”

During their time at the clinic, Dueck said they heard many positive comments from patients about the excellent care offered there.

“Our sense is that Teulon Medical Centre has earned a reputation for trustworthiness through many years of skilled, diligent practice within the community,” Dueck said.

Overall, the experience left a lasting positive impression on the students.

“The best part of our experience has undoubtedly been how warmly we have been received,” Dueck said.

“From the very first moment, community members and the staff of Teulon Medical Clinic, led by Dr. Loudon, have taken a deep interest in us as people and in our medical education.”

And from Loudon’s perspective, that’s what it’s all about — creating connections in the community and beyond.

“I’ve always enjoyed the engagement that we have with student colleagues,” he said.

“From my point of view, the fundamentals in our success stem from relationship with community, with the medical practice and with the region. It’s a matter of consolidating what we’ve got and continuing to evolve.”

From left to right: First-year medical student Bhavan Dhaliwal, nurse practitioner Adrian Sawatzky, nurse practitioner Aravind Pampackal, physician assistant Ashley Wicklund, first-year medical student Stephen Dueck, office assistant Sabrina Windross, office manager Lisa Taylor, registered nurse Shaleen Loudon and Dr. Mike Loudon.
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