Doctor’s Nova Scotia highlights Shelburne physician

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Dr. John Keeler’s story is the latest to be told as a part of Your Doctor’s. Your Stories, a project of Doctor’s Nova Scotia to help share the positive work physicians are doing in the province.

By Amy Woolvett

Dr. John Keeler has seen many physicians come and go in Shelburne, but has remained at the heart of the community for the duration of his career through his clinic, his shifts at the emergency department and his role as deputy chief of staff and most recently teacher and mentor to budding physicians.

Dr. Keeler’s story is the latest to be told as a part of Your Doctor’s. Your Stories, a project of Doctor’s Nova Scotia to help share the positive work physicians are doing in the province.

He began his career in Shelburne in 1985, fresh out of medical school.

“I thought I would only be here for a year,” he laughed.

He knew he wanted to work on the South Shore and realized Shelburne would become the perfect fit for both his wife’s dental practice as well as his own medical practice.

His draw to the area was his love for the outdoors, in particular fly-fishing.

“This is a great place for kids to grow up,” he said.  All four of his kids fit right in to the community and went off to gain their own university educations and explore the world.

He remembers some of the hardest years to be when there were only three physicians covering the entire community including the emergency department.  When one was on vacation or sick it was that much harder.  He said now the community seemed to be in a pretty good position with much fewer orphan patients in the community.

Dr. Keeler’s career has evolved over the years to include a commitment to recruiting health care members to the area as well as teaching as a mentor to new physicians and to students in a residency role.

 “Rural doctors are the true cradle-to-grave type of health practitioners. I explain this to my students. When you’ve been here for a while you see the community, and throughout your career you see people and communities grow,” he told Doctor’s Nova Scotia.

He said working as a rural area physician can hold a lot of attraction.

“There is a lot of variety whereas in a city they might be tied to an office all day,” he said.

His roles have once again changed as he has committed to a residency program that will begin this summer with a student coming for a 2-year residency.

In 2015 there will be two more coming for the program.

His focus of practice has also shifted to a collaborative roll over the past few years working with other physicians, nurse practitioners and health care support staff.

Part of what he has committed to the community is trying to attract and retrain physicians to the area.

“I will retire eventually,” he said.  “I can’t really walk away from this.”

Geographic location: Shelburne, Nova Scotia, South Shore

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