I’m Major Arthur Payne from Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland. I’m a Medical Officer and the Base Surgeon for Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.
And I’m Lieutenant Navy Ajiri Ikede. I’m originally from Ibadan, Nigeria. I’m a Medical Officer currently posted to CFB Halifax.
PAYNE: For many physicians, service in the Canadian Forces is an opportunity to push your skills to the limit in a uniquely rewarding health care setting.
Professionally, serving as a Medical Officer allows you to practice family medicine or an impressive variety of advanced specialities at the highest level without the responsibilities, distractions and expenses of maintaining a private office.
Practicing, even general family medicine in the military is vastly different from the civilian context.
IKEDE: We’re dealing with primarily occupational medicine. We’re not just looking at the impact that the conditions might have on the individual, but also what impact it has on their ability to perform their duties in the Forces.
PAYNE: There’s infinite amount of resources available to you. You know, if I see a patient and I think they need an MRI, I can get it tomorrow. The medical care provided to members of the Canadian Forces is second to none.
IKEDE: As a leader of a proficient and highly motivated health-care team, you’ll spend more time with your patients than most civilian physicians and you’ll have the opportunity to continuously upgrade your knowledge and skills.
Financially, the Forces offers an excellent way to pay off student debt or to earn a competitive salary coupled with an outstanding pension, generous benefits and vacation allowances and subsidized advanced education.
We’re very well compensated for our work. It’s comparable to what we’d get on the civilian side and on top of that, medical school is covered, all your books and instruments and things like that.
PAYNE: Medical Officers spend part of their service maintaining and enhancing their clinical skills in some of Canada’s leading civilian medical centres.
So certainly myself and my military colleagues, we all try to maintain some element of practice outside the military. You’re seeing kids, you’re seeing women, you’re seeing geriatric patients. You want to keep those skills alive.
In times of conflict, Medical Officers rise to a unique challenge: to meet the urgent needs of field hospitals and trauma wards on the front lines.
When you deploy to a place like Afghanistan, certainly it becomes a life-changing event for you. You’ll see and do things there that you’ll never do again for the rest of your life.
A lot of times, you have very limited resources or you’ll have an excess of resources, but not exactly the things that you need available to you, so you learn to improvise, adapt, think outside the box.
IKEDE: The unpredictability sometimes can be kind of exciting. Last year, on a day like today, I was working in the clinic and my boss came in and asked me if I liked German beer. Twenty hours later, I was on a plane to Germany and I spent a month there working to fill in on a physician there who had to come back to Canada for a course.
PAYNE: A lot of us join the military because we want to do military things, you know, so just the opportunity to shoot the guns, to ride in the tanks, you know, you go home with a big smile on your face at the end of the day because, you know, that’s not something that everybody gets an opportunity to do.
IKEDE: Medical Officers start their military careers with the Health Services Basic Officer Training Course.
PAYNE: The course includes some rigorous physical fitness training, as well as instruction in basic weapons handling.
IKEDE: When you complete that training, you’ll go on to the Basic Medical Officer Course concentrating on the unique team structure, responsibilities and traditions of a military doctor’s life. That course lasts 4 weeks.
PAYNE: Most Medical Officers begin their military career with a three to four year posting at a Canadian Forces Base.
So you can be working in a clinic where essentially, other than the fact that you’re wearing a military uniform, you’re functioning as a family doctor.
IKEDE: Typically, every morning at 7:30, we have something called sick parade which is sort of like a walk-in for any acute illnesses, so that’s where you’ll see a lot of your sprained ankles and colds and flus. It’s essentially made to deal with any issues that have come up within the last 48 to 72 hours. And then after that, around 9:30, for the rest of the day which will typically end between 3:30 and 4:30, is your regular scheduled appointments like you would have at any family medicine clinic.
Officers assigned to a Field Ambulance unit will receive additional operational training and take part in training exercises that may involve challenging environmental conditions and foreign travel.
PAYNE: During your initial posting, you can expect to deploy at least once on either a humanitarian or disaster-relief mission, aboard a Navy vessel or to a conflict or post-conflict region.
IKEDE: Following your first posting, you may be able to pursue fully-subsidized advanced training in military medical fields such as submarine, aviation or dive medicine, nuclear and biological warfare, as well as Emergency, Sports or Occupational Medicine. And there may also be the opportunity to complete residency training in specialties such as General and Orthopaedic Surgery, Internal Medicine, Radiology and Psychiatry.
IKEDE: I would have to say that my proudest moment as a Medical Officer in the Forces to date has been the opportunity to medical for the Prime Minister and his entourage earlier this year. Just the fact that I was nominated for that meant a lot to me as far as being given that responsibility.
PAYNE: I’ve been to the U.S., I’ve been to the Arctic, Afghanistan, Germany, you know, lots of different areas throughout the world. I was on a sovereignty operation to the Arctic, spent a couple of weeks out patrolling across the Arctic at 50-, you know, living in 10-man tents with my mittens on my feet in the evening to try to keep my toes from freezing. I have done things that I could have never imagined having done in any other environment.