Timmins physicians mark 30 years of practice

Timmins physicians mark 30 years of practice

At the University of Toronto, Nancy Woods and Larry Malo trained as family physicians. They quickly realized in Timmins they would be required to do a little bit of everything. Photo: Katelyn Malo

For Dr. Nancy Woods and Dr. Larry Malo, their tenure in Timmins was only supposed to last five years. But three decades after they first migrated North from Toronto, the physicians say they wouldn’t want to live, or practise, anywhere else.

Woods and Malo, who are married, work at the Timmins and District Hospital, (TADH). Between them, they have experience in family medicine, obstetrics, medical education, hospital medicine, oncology, anesthesia and emergency medicine.

That variety of work, along with the hospital’s well-trained, expert staff, proved an irresistible combination for the pair.

“The practice is so varied and so interesting, and the people we work with are so fantastic,” Malo said.

Added Woods: “Where else can I practise family medicine the way family medicine was meant to be practised?”

But in 1987, long before Timmins became their home, and they were still new graduates embarking on their careers, they faced the question of where they would set up practice.

Malo had participated in the Ministry of Health’s Underserviced Area Program (UAP), which helps medical school students pay for their schooling in return for serving two years in an underserviced area in the North upon graduation.

“At that time, there were only three communities in Northern Ontario that needed two physicians,” Woods said.

Atikokan, Dryden, and Timmins all made the shortlist, but in the end, Timmins emerged as their preferred community. Although the UAP required two years of service, Malo and Woods decided that staying for such a short period of time wasn’t fair to the community, and so they decided to extend it to five years.

At the University of Toronto, they had trained as family physicians. They quickly realized in Timmins they would be required to do a little bit of everything.

“It was old-style stuff, but it was brilliant,” Malo said. “You’re kind of like a community physician, but you have so many responsibilities and so much interesting work to do.”

In addition to their family practice, both worked in obstetrics for about 10 years.

Woods served as the Medical Officer of Health for a period, as well as site director for Timmins, before switching to oncology.

Now semi-retired, Woods has given up family practice, but still works in oncology and as a hospitalist, caring for patients in hospital.

Malo, meanwhile, focused on emergency medicine, eventually getting his EM certification, and working in the emergency room for 15 years. He returned to school for a year, accepting a position in the Family Practice Anesthesia program in Sudbury, to train as an anesthesiologist. He is currently still practising family medicine and anesthesia work, with the occasional hospitalist work.

The couple say their colleagues — caring, well-educated and well-trained — are also their friends.

“We have such a good time together, and there’s such a rapport with everybody, that I can’t imagine being anywhere else,” Malo said.

Avid outdoor enthusiasts, the pair also cites the ample opportunities for outdoor activity as a key draw for them.

Woods and Malo enjoy spending time at the family cottage, and are fervent whitewater canoeists. Hiking, skiing, fishing, golfing and foraging for natural foods are among the activities they’ve enjoyed and taught their four children — now grown adults — to love, too.

Like any small community in the North, and across the province, Timmins faces its share of challenges.

TADH suffers from chronic underfunding and overcrowding, and at times, as many of half of its beds are filled with alternate level of care (ALC) patients.

But it also has its perks. Physicians are able to practise a high level of medicine, and the facility is blessed with a complement of consultants that provide support when needed, Woods said.

Thanks to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, coupled with aggressive recruitment efforts, the Timmins hospital enjoys a high attraction and retention rate for new physicians.

In all their years of practising and living in the City with the Heart of Gold, they never really considered relocating elsewhere. By the time their initial five years were up, they had fallen in love with Timmins, and “we just kept going,” Woods said.

“It never really occurred to us to go anywhere else because Timmins has everything,” Malo added.

“It’s everything we want for our kids, and for ourselves, professionally, socially and recreationally.”

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