A Leap of Faith

Dr. Adam Sherrard was working on the coast of Labrador when he stumbled upon an advertisement for a locum physician in a community almost 9000km away.

"It was my wife who pointed out that Kazakhstan would be closer," recalls Dr. Sherrard. 

That community in need of a long-term locum doctor was Dawson City, Yukon.

"Accepting the job in Dawson did feel like a leap of faith because we had never even visited the Yukon, but the feedback from other physicians who had worked there was excellent."

Dawson might seem like an unlikely choice for a physician who was raised in Montreal, Quebec, but Dr. Sherrard does have small-town roots. His father grew up in a logging camp in Northwestern Ontario and his mother was born in the farming community of Norwich, Ontario, a town where Dr. Sherrard's grandfather was the only physician. "I remember hearing stories about this scope of practice that was just immense, from managing severe asthmatics to performing emergency appendectomies. I really admired that ability to master the essentials of so many different branches of medicine. I think being a generalist physician in a small community is still probably one of the most interesting jobs out there in medicine today. The Yukon certainly provides doctors with opportunities for that type of traditional rural practice."

Dr. Sherrard earned a Master's degree in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McGill University before obtaining his M.D. at the University of Ottawa and completing a residency program in Rural Family Medicine at Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador. "My wife was born in Newfoundland and I was warned early in our relationship that Newfoundlanders are like salmon – they migrate home to spawn." Dr. Sherrard did move back to St. John's shortly after his daughter Julia was born, but the decision to move to the East Coast for his training wasn't forced on him. "There are a group of physicians in Goose Bay, Labrador who have put together one of the strongest and best recognized rural programs in Canada. That kind of rural and remote training is what you need to work in a place like Dawson where sometimes you can't  even medevac a critical patient because it's -50C and the pilots are refusing to land through ice fog."

The Yukon has been a good fit for Dr. Sherrard and his family. He works at the Dawson Medical Clinic where the practice includes scheduled outpatient appointments, emergency visits, home calls, palliative care and regular trips to see patients at MacDonald Lodge, the local long term care facility. This year he also worked as the volunteer physician on First Hunt, a 4-day traditional skills and hunting experience for youth organized in part by the Tr'ondëk Hwëch First Nation community in Dawson. "Living in Dawson has been great. I feel like we have been adopted. We even ate Christmas dinner twice this year because we had invitations to celebrate with two local families here in town. It's hard to match that kind of hospitality."

Dr. Sherrard enjoys the conveniences of living in a smaller community. "My daughter and I walk four blocks from home to daycare in the morning, then I walk one block back to the clinic and I'm home with my wife just about every day for lunch. Last summer I was out fly-fishing on the Klondike River (a 5 minute drive) about four times a week. My wife made a pair of beaver hide mitts for the first time this winter. It's been great."

The Yukon has a reputation for charming visitors and turning them into permanent residents. Dr. Sherrard says he has lost count of how many of his patients came to the Yukon for a bit of adventure and ended up staying for decades. As for him? Dr. Sherrard admits he is already planning his next year in Dawson.

Dr. Adam Sherrard is a family physician who works and lives in Dawson, YT with his wife Joanne and their 3-year old daughter Julia.

Dr. Adam Sherrard