By Lyonel Doherty
An Oliver born doctor-in-training is inspired to stay local and establish a family practice here in the South Okanagan.
Dr. Travis Thompson, a former Sun Fun leader and lifeguard in Oliver, is getting lots of experience in treating people’s ills. For example, he has done shifts in the emergency department at South Okanagan General Hospital, and has treated inmates in the Okanagan Correctional Centre.
The son of Raymond and Bev Thompson of Oliver is in his second year of post-graduate training in the UBC Family Practice Residency Program.
“Things are starting to take shape (for my career),” Travis said, relaxing on a picnic table outside of the Oliver hospital.
In fact, he was born in this hospital in 1990 and attended Oliver Elementary and Southern Okanagan Secondary School in the days of principals Dave Fairbrother and Marty Lewis.
Calling them “fantastic schools,” Travis said they definitely contributed to him pursuing his post-secondary studies.
He also thanks his mom and dad for “pushing me to pursue whatever I wanted.”
During his youth in Oliver, Travis loved playing hockey and being a lifeguard at the pool.
Because biology and chemistry were two of his favourite subjects in school, he began studying to become a pharmacist. But he soon realized that he wanted a more hands-on, diagnostic approach with people, so he applied for medical school.
“I want a doctor/patient relationship and guide people in their health care decisions.”
During first year of university, his grandmother became quite ill and Travis witnessed how all of the health care professionals came together to help her.
“After seeing that . . . seeing how everyone did their best with her treatment, I wanted to be a part of that (environment).”
Travis enrolled in the UBC Faculty of Medicine program in 2012 and graduated in 2016.
“I had an idea what I was in for … there was a lot of reading,” he noted.
But the real challenge was the hands-on clinical training that followed. “It’s tough, but you get used to it.”
Thompson has worked three Friday shifts at South Okanagan General Hospital, saying it’s a very busy emergency department with a “fantastic” group of nurses and physicians.
“Although I haven’t spent a lot of time at SOGH so far, the time I have spent has been great. The staff is very friendly and the physicians are keen to teach learners.”
Treating inmates at the new prison in Senkulmen Business Park is also a busy affair, he pointed out.
In February, Thompson will spend four months in Osoyoos working with Dr. Garnett Tarr in his practice.
Thompson hopes to establish his own practice after he completes his residency next summer.
While many new doctors choose to work in big centres, that doesn’t appeal to Thompson.
“The big city is not me . . . it’s almost too busy for me,” he said, noting Oliver is a hard place to leave.
Thompson said he chose the family practice as opposed to specializing in any one discipline because he wants to develop relationships with patients and be able to guide them on their journey to better health.
“My general advice for any patient would be to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and spend your time doing things that you enjoy.”
In terms of improving health care delivery in BC, he acknowledged there are areas that can be enhanced.
“But from a family medicine perspective, it would be great if we could graduate more family physicians so that more patients could be attached to a primary physician.”
While you may think that house calls are a thing of the past, Thompson said he definitely would be willing to provide that service.
In fact, he occasionally does house calls in Penticton for certain patients.
“Hey doc? It hurts when I do this (lift my arm a certain way).” “Then don’t do that.”
While Thompson would never say that to a patient, laughter is indeed good medicine.
For example, when a three-year-old boy was told to pee in a cup at the doctor’s office, he asked with a shaky voice: “Do I have to drink it?”