By Richard McGuire
Special to the Chronicle
Osoyoos is getting a new family doctor in mid-August as Pardeep Dhillon sets up a practice at the Desert Doctors’ Clinic.
He’s currently taking new patients.
Dhillon, who completed a two-year residency in Prince George, is not a stranger to this area.
He did a rotation last summer at the clinic working with Dr. Garnet Tarr.
His wife Raj grew up around Oliver, where her parents, Hardam and Bhupinder Dhaliwal, have an orchard, and he’s visited many times.
Dhillon plans to serve both communities, working in the clinic in Osoyoos and in emergency at South Okanagan General Hospital (SOGH) in Oliver.
Dhillon, almost 35, was born in Duncan on Vancouver Island, but moved to North Delta as a young boy and lived there most of his life.
He did four years of undergraduate training at Simon Fraser University, but he did his medical schooling mostly outside Canada.
Because of tough competition for spots at University of British Columbia (UBC), he opted to train at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine on the Dutch island of St. Maarten.
After nearly two years, he completed the American board exams and went on to do his third and fourth years of medical school in the U.S., with additional training at Western and Dalhousie universities in Canada and nearly half a year in Slough, just outside London, England.
“I was all over the map,” he said. “I was quite the traveller.”
He has to think for a moment to recall the various U.S. locations where he trained: Baltimore; Chicago; Southfield, Michigan; Long Island, New York.
The many locations gave Dhillon a chance to experience how different hospital systems operate – the public system in Canada and the United Kingdom and the private system in the U.S.
“It was good to see the different challenges each system had,” he said. “It was an experience trying to be flexible and adaptable to little things that came along.”
He spent most of his two-year residency working in family medicine in Prince George, but chose Osoyoos last summer for the eight weeks he needed to spend in a smaller community.
“I always knew I wanted to come here,” he said. “My wife grew up here and it was always on my radar where I wanted to practice.”
During his time working with Tarr last summer, he discussed returning to Osoyoos to work. But there were still more hoops he had to jump through.
Because his residency through UBC was in Prince George, he was committed as an international graduate to work for Northern Health.
But Dhillon found another resident in Kelowna who was from Smithers and wanted to return to Northern Health to work.
The two residents were able to get government permission to swap places, so that the other resident could return north and Dhillon could work in the Okanagan.
A further hurdle came because Osoyoos and Oliver initially weren’t recognized by Interior Health as communities with a doctor shortage. But that too was resolved.
“I picked Osoyoos because it was familiar,” said Dhillon. “I had worked here for two months and had a great experience with Dr. Tarr.”
By working in emergency in Oliver, he said he’d be able to benefit both communities.
His fluency in Punjabi will allow him to serve the local Punjabi community in their own language, although he said his Punjabi isn’t perfect.
“My Punjabi skills are not 100 per cent,” he said. “But I’m pretty fluent. I speak to my parents and my in-laws in Punjabi, but I make little mistakes along the way… I think I can practice in Punjabi and it would be really helpful to that community as well.”
Dhillon said people can fill out a form at the clinic if they wish to become his patients. He prefers to take patients who don’t currently have a doctor.
In addition to working in family medicine, he’s looking forward to working in emergency.
“It’s always been something I’ve been interested in because it’s more hands-on,” he said, adding that the ability to work in emergency was another reason he wanted to come here.
He and his wife have one young daughter, not quite aged two, and they hope to have more children at some point.
“I plan to stay long-term as long as things go smoothly,” said Dhillon. “Even though my contract is only for two years, I plan to stay longer.”