“I think this award is for my whole team, not just for me,” says Dr. Anjali Oberai, a family doctor at the Wawa Medical Centre who has been named the 2022 Ontario Family Physician of the Year by the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP).
The award is the OCFP’s highest honour, presented annually to a family doctor who provides exceptional patient care while improving the health of communities and well-being of society.
“It’s a huge honour to be given an award like this,” Oberai says. “But you can’t do good work if you don’t have a good team to work with, and I have a great team. This award is for all of us.”
Oberai has provided comprehensive primary care for over 25 years in a variety of capacities like residents’ homes, her office, and the emergency room.
She’s also an associate professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) and has been co-chair of Family Medicine since 2015.
Oberai even works 24-hour shifts on a regular basis to ensure the ER in Wawa remains open.
“After you’ve been around for a while, those shifts just become part of your work,” she says. “You don’t actually think about it that much. It’s just part of your job.”
Oberai is just one of two physicians working at the medical centre in Wawa, and she’s the only one dedicated to on-call deliveries.
She says they’ve been no stranger to the doctor shortage that’s impacted healthcare across the province.
“Traditionally, we’ve been very lucky up here as we work in a team-based system,” she says. “But in the last few years, we’ve started to see some cracks, and COVID has added extra challenges. We remain hopeful that we will recruit, and I think NOSM has helped with that.”
Oberai says her experience working with students through NOSM has been incredibly fulfilling and is a highlight of her career.
“It’s a really rewarding part of my practice,” she says. “The creation of NOSM gave physicians like me and many others these great opportunities for teaching and leadership at the school. We have two medical students up here with us now. It keeps you sharp having learners with you.”
“I remain hopeful that family medicine will once again be a top choice for people to come in from medical school,” she adds.
The Ontario Family Physician of the Year award is peer-nominated, meaning Oberai’s colleagues, staff, and patients had written letters of support to the OCFP vouching for her to be recognized – leaving the family doctor nearly speechless.
“I admire my peers and colleagues so much, so to be nominated by them just makes it extra special because I’m in awe of them,” she says. “For them to think of me, it’s really special.”
Even after working as a physician for over 25 years, Oberai says she still finds a lot of joy in her career.
“I think over time, it’s that relationship you develop with patients,” she says. “There’s so much variety in the work, and you know it’ll be different every day. I just feel so lucky that I chose this profession.”