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Interlake-Eastern Health Services is located at 100 Easton Drive

Interlake-Eastern RHA recognized two physicians with physician emeritus awards last night at the region’s annual spring physician dinner at the Selkirk Golf and Country Club.

Physician colleagues and community members had the chance to nominate award recipients, Dr. Eric Stearns and Dr. Greg Pinniger, in recognition of exemplary service and expertise to community.

Dr. Charles Penner, Interlake-Eastern RHA’s regional lead of medical services and chief medical officer, congratulated this year’s recipients for their achievements.

“It brings me great pleasure to recognize my physician colleagues, Dr. Eric Stearns and Dr. Greg Pinniger, for their contributions to health care in the Interlake-Eastern region,” Dr. Penner said. 

“We are privileged to have such dedicated professionals serving our communities.”

Dr. Stearns said receiving the Physician Emeritus Award is the top honour.  He graduated from medical school at the University of Manitoba in 1978 and finished his residency in obstetrics and gynecology five years later. He began practising at the Manitoba Clinic, while also working for the Northern Medical Unit and travelling to northern communities including Churchill, Rankin Inlet, Arviat, Coral Harbour, Baker Lake and Repulse Bay.

Over time, he shifted his focus to offer care in Hodgson and Fisher River. At the same time, he spent more than 25 years in Selkirk performing surgery and providing clinical care. He also ran a private practice in Selkirk for two years. Today, Dr. Stearns continues to do surgical assisting in Selkirk.

He also serves as a physician advisor for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba (CPSM) and is a past-president for CPSM. In addition, he chaired the perinatal maternal health standards committee at the CPSM for many years and worked as a consultant on the Manitoba Physician Achievement Review program. He continues to work with CPSM’s quality improvement program.

Adding to his varied experience, Dr. Stearns was a department head at Seven Oaks General Hospital and served on multiple committees through Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority, as well as holding the position of assistant professor in University of Manitoba’s department of obstetrics and gynecology.

With a global reach, Dr. Stearns taught the ALARM International Program in Guyana, Ethiopia and Tanzania. This program aims to reduce maternal and newborn mortality around the world. In Guyana, Dr. Stearns also reviewed the national obstetrical program for the government.

As he prepares to wrap up a career that spans more than four decades, Dr. Stearns expects that 2024 will be his final year of practice. Looking back, there’s much that he’s enjoyed over the decades.

“You can’t beat delivering babies, and I also love to teach,” he said. “And to go out with this award is awesome. It’s the highlight of my career. It really tops it off. This is amazing to me.” 

Dr. Greg Pinniger also enjoys the variety he has experienced through his career in rural general practice.

Since 1992, Dr. Pinniger has served as a physician in Manitoba with four years in Killarney and 26 years at Stonewall Medical Clinic, along with work in the surgical intensive care unit at Health Sciences Centre. Outside of Manitoba, he did locums in Prince Edward Island and Alberta.

As a general practitioner, Dr. Pinniger said he enjoys “knowing a little bit about a lot of things.” He also appreciates that the duration of his career has allowed him continuity of care with his patients. By working alongside other dedicated and enthusiastic doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and administrators, Dr. Pinniger feels gratitude for individuals who comprise the care teams that health-care requires.

At the same time, Dr. Pinniger has enjoyed serving on Interlake-Eastern RHA’s medical advisory committee over the years. Looking ahead, he hopes other new physicians might pursue a similar path in rural general practice.

“I hope that rural and family medicine can one day recapture the attention of new medical graduates and entice them into a rewarding, challenging career — one where they can grow professionally and personally and one where they can feel truly needed by those that they serve,” said Dr. Pinniger, adding that coming to Stonewall was the highlight of his career.

As for being chosen as a recipient of the Physician Emeritus Award, Dr. Pinniger said it’s an honour — and a surprise.

“I’m just one of many people in the health-care system who try to do their best,” he said. “I appreciate the recognition given to me by my colleagues. It is touching and humbling.”

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