Trading concrete for community

Sault pathologist enjoys quality of life

Dr. Christa Cassalman was looking for a medium-sized community like Sault Ste. Marie to raise a family.

Life is good in Sault Ste. Marie for Dr. Christa Cassalman and her family.

A Woody Boat is docked in the water of their riverfront home and an Airstream travel trailer is parked in the driveway. A sunset cruise is slated for later that evening, and the family is recalling fond memories of their recent camping trip to Pancake Bay Provincial Park while planning to do the circle tour around Lake Superior next summer.

“In life, you envision having a house on the water when you retire,” said Cassalman. “We have it now. Friends have to take time off to go to the Muskokas to boat or relax on the water, and we do it now, every day.”

Cassalman, who grew up in Bancroft, had just recently finished her pathology sub-speciality fellowship in Boston at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, after completing medical school overseas at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland, followed by a residency in anatomic and clinical pathology at Tufts Medical Centre in Boston, when she was recruited to Sault Ste. Marie in January 2016. She was looking for a medium-sized community to raise a family and wanted to trade in concrete for community.

“My family and I are happy here,” said Cassalman. “My son is in a Montessori program here at half the price I was paying for regular daycare; my husband, Gilberto, travels a lot on business, and the affordable flights to Toronto work well for him. I have a comfortable quality of life and a great work environment.”

Cassalman loves the accessibility of activities in the Sault for everyone in the family, from swim lessons to snowboarding.

“We enjoy boating, hiking, camping, snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding,” said Cassalman. “It’s wonderful how close to home all of these activities are in the Sault… it’s a short drive, and there are no line-ups.”

Traffic ruled their lives in Boston. “It was a nightmare, trying to get around with a stroller, toddler, and a German shepherd.” Cassalman said. “If you have access to everything you’d ever want to do but you can’t get there, or you can’t afford it, it’s booked or too crowded, what’s the point of living in a large urban centre?”

Trading in the subway and bus stops during snowstorms for a seven-minute drive in her own car to get to work at the Sault Area Hospital (SAH) has been a wonderful change for the general pathologist.

Cassalman joined the SAH pathology department when she realized that their philosophy for maintaining a work-life balance was in line with hers.

She was also thrilled with how approachable everyone was and how much support they provided her.

“Sault Area Hospital has great facilities and I have many experienced colleagues to learn from who make me feel at home,” said Cassalman. “We have access to state-of-the-art diagnostic procedures that allow us to see a mix of complex and challenging cases from a large catchment area with a diverse patient population.We have a lot of volume and variety from benign to inflammatory to malignant cases… we see it all.”

The doctor is happy to be back in Ontario, and doesn’t regret turning down other offers in the United States and across Canada.

“You only have one life,” said Cassalman. “I didn’t want to fritter my life away, annoyed at my commute, stuck in my office long hours and not with my family. I want to be happy and healthy and with my son and husband, right now… and I can do that in the Sault. We all work very hard here, but there’s greater flexibility for scheduling my work and home responsibilities. The commute is easy, it’s a beautiful surrounding, and I feel it was serendipitous I was recruited here…truly, it’s been phenomenal.”

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