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Doctor finds perfect mix for professional and family life in Alberta city

Joanne McGowan © Postmedia Network Inc.

When Dr. Garland Jonker first moved to southern Alberta 12 years ago to complete his residency, he and his wife immediately realized that Lethbridge was the ideal place to raise a family while also advancing their professions.

"My wife and I were both interested in a community that offered diverse opportunities for both our careers," he recalls. "We hadn't started a family yet, but we recognized that we could pursue all our personal and professional interests together in this area. Lethbridge easily met all those needs for us."

As Alberta's southernmost city — located 205 kilometres southeast of Calgary and 90 kilometres north of the Montana border — Lethbridge's population has grown to more than 100,000 residents in recent years. And with several family physicians having recently retired, the city's looking to recruit additional doctors and health professionals, including nurses and paramedics, to help fill that void.

"We have a really fantastic, committed health-care group in the area, but we'd definitely love to have some new individuals come our way," explains Dr. Jonker.

This shortage of family physicians bodes well not just for new graduates, but also experienced physicians eager to have their own practice in a new location offering numerous benefits — including lower real estate costs, shorter commute times and a sunny, moderate climate year-round.

"Building a practice may be of great appeal to new graduates and also to physicians coming with a partner or family," says Dr. Jonker. "Lethbridge has a lot of supports already in place, with plenty of clinics to talk with and to help find the right practice space in which to work. Physicians are not going to struggle when building a practice here."

Dr. Jonker recalls his own early years in Lethbridge in which, as a general practitioner, he also enhanced his skill set by working in everything from urgent care to assisting in the operating room, delivering babies and doing hospice work.

"Professionally, you have access to all these great resources beyond your scope of practice, which allows you to accomplish so much in patient care without having to lean on other communities or ship patients elsewhere," he says.

"You can do it all here because it's a larger centre, but it's also very personal and welcoming, with the atmosphere and personality of a smaller community."

Offering that unique quality of life by providing the best of both rural and urban lifestyles in one place, Lethbridge is literally the epicentre for several UNESCO World Heritage sites in southern Alberta — making it one of the most sought-after destinations in the province.

From Waterton Lakes National Park to the many ski resorts in the nearby Rockies, this city is at the centre of it all. And with its own unique landscape — from running trails to river valleys and coulees — it's family-friendly atmosphere provides opportunities not just for professionals but for their families as well.

Adds Dr. Jonker, "In this diverse community, with the two major educational institutions and plenty of nearby attractions, families are going to find their niche in Lethbridge in no time at all."

Medical professionals looking for additional information on living and working in Lethbridge are encouraged to inquire here about the city's health-care recruitment initiatives.