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Returning home to Kirkland Lake

Posted on February 19, 2019
Two women wearing white and grey stand in an office in front of a window in winter

The effect of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine on access to quality health care goes beyond doctors.

Since its creation in 2007, 135 registered dietitians have graduated from NOSM’s Northern Ontario Dietetic Internship Program (NODIP). Two of those graduates, Kelsey MacKinnon and Jasmine Connelly, are now practising in the Kirkland Lake area.

MacKinnon, a registered dietitian with the Timiskaming Diabetes Program North at Kirkland & District Hospital, grew up in Cambridge. Her family is from Kirkland Lake, and her parents returned to the community while she was in university. “I had never lived in Northern Ontario full-time before I started my internship, I had just come to visit,” she says. “Through my placements, I got more exposure to the communities and the way of life in Northern Ontario, and decided to try it out and take a job here when I graduated. That was five years ago, and I couldn’t be happier.”

She says the sense of community is one of the main reasons she decided to stay.

“Someone who’s your client may also be your neighbour and you see them at the grocery store, so you’re treated more like a friend or family,” she says. “When a client comes to see you, the interactions we have are very warm and friendly, and I really like that.”

Connelly, a registered dietitian with the Kirkland District Family Health Team, grew up in the Kirkland Lake area, and it was while she was studying in Southern Ontario that she knew she wanted to return to and work in the North.

She says NODIP allowed her to do placements in areas in and around Kirkland Lake because of her expressed interest in eventually returning to live there.

“The client population is different than in Southern Ontario, as are the resources available, and I wanted to experience that setting as an intern,” she said. “NODIP allowed me to do that, and it’s because of the program that I felt fully prepared me for the work I do now.”

MacKinnon, who is now a preceptor with the program and facilitated one of Connelly’s placements last year, adds that the program shows  interns the day-to-day variety of rural practice, something she says is one of the big attractions of working in the North. “When you’re the only providers in the diabetes program, you’re covering a lot of different settings,” she says. “It’s very multifaceted, and I feel very lucky to be able to expose the interns to things like this that they may not know about practising in Northern Ontario.”

She says that above all, her clients are grateful when they realize they can see a dietitian in their home community, and are often excited to see interns that are returning to the area.

“When you’re in an appointment and an intern introduces themselves, you can see the clients light up,” says MacKinnon. “They say things like, ‘Oh wow, you’re coming back home,’ or ‘You’re giving back to your community,’ and they’re just very happy.”

Read more in the latest issue of Northern Passages.