Physician brings practice to Prince Edward Island aboriginal community

Jim Day
Published on February 4, 2014

Dr. Megan Armstrong has just moved into her new office in the Sherwood Medical Centre. She will spend every Wednesday in Scotchfort seeing Aboriginal patients at the Abegweit First Nation Mi'kmaq Health Centre.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Dr. Megan Armstrong is making house calls of sorts to reach aboriginal patients.

The 28-year-old Charlottetown doctor is bringing her family practice every Wednesday to the Abegweit First Nation Mi’kmaq Health Centre in Scotchfort.

Armstrong welcomes the opportunity to leave her practice at the Stratford Medical Clinic once a week to see aboriginal patients on their reserve.

“I love it,’’ she says. “For me, it breaks up the week. Staff at the health centre out there are just fantastic.’’

Noting diabetes, heart disease and hypertension are big health issues within the aboriginal community, Armstrong says part of her job is to promote a healthy lifestyle and provide intervention. However, she is quick to note that she wants to work with, rather than preach to, her Aboriginal patients.

“My plan is really not to go out there and make Abegweit what I want it to be but to find out what they want it to be — (determine) what services they want,’’ she says.

Chief Brian Francis says the key goal is simply to provide health services to members of the Abegweit First Nation in a convenient manner. He says Armstrong “tops off’’ the health centre in Scotchfort that he describes as strong and vibrant.

“She wanted to partner with us,’’ he says. “She is there to make a difference.’’

Francis says the band council and health centre staff worked hard the past couple of years to attract a doctor on reserve to help address the ongoing health care challenges facing the community.

He echoed Armstrong’s assessment that diabetes and heart disease are major health concerns for his people.

“One of the key priorities we have been working on was attracting a doctor to our community to better serve the needs of our citizens,’’ says Francis.

He says over the past couple of years Abegweit First Nation worked to secure accreditation for its health care centre and forged a solid working relationship with the Government of Prince Edward Island. Those were the keys, he notes, to paving the way for the arrival of Armstrong.

“Dr. Armstrong practises a heartfelt, collaborative approach to family medicine that will be appreciated and respected within our community,’’ says Francis.

“We are very proud to welcome her to Abegweit.’’

Armstrong completed her medical degree in Newfoundland at Memorial University. She completed her family medicine training in P.E.I. through Dalhousie University.

Originally from Ontario, Armstrong has spent much of her life in Prince Edward Island. She returned to P.E.I. two years ago to complete her residency.