Dr. Amy Gausvik: Local and Global Medicine
This post comes from FMWC Member Dr. Amy Gausvik, who was the recipient of the 2019 Margaret Owen Waite Memorial Fund. Highlighting her work both at home in Alberta and overseas in Tanzania, Dr. Gausvik shared in her acceptance speech at the 2019 FMWC AGM Awards Ceremony the following wisdom and has granted permission to post on this site.
My name is Amy Gausvik, and I’m a rural family physician, mother of 3, and wife to my best friend and husband, Cody. I live on the outskirts of Calgary, Alberta, because I practice family medicine on the First Nations community of Eden Valley – about an hour from my home. I also provide family practice obstetrics in the town of High River – which is about a 30-minute drive from where I live.
Like many of you, my career has had a bit of a ping-pong trajectory, and a number of years ago I was asked if I wouldn’t like to teach at the undergraduate level at the medical school in Calgary. I became a Master Teacher in the Cumming School of Medicine which I love, but which is also about a 45-minute drive. As you can tell I don’t get to spend nearly enough time in my car.
Through the Global Health Office at our medical school I became very involved with some international projects. One of my favorites is a long-term project with the Laos PDR, helping to set up their family medicine residency program.
I’ve also been very lucky to be able to take medical students to Tanzania on an annual basis to learn and medicine and health systems on another continent, in a very differently resourced setting. But I was always very mindful of the possibility that our students were overburdening the local faculty in an already burdened health care system in a low-income country. When I asked about this however, I was told “We love teaching your students in Tanzania, we don’t mind having them at all. Why, though, can’t our Tanzanian students come to Canada to have a similar experience?”.
Why indeed…. Well, there was some red tape involved in having Tanzanian students allowed to come to Canada to do an elective. But the bigger issue was the cost of airfare for a Tanzanian student to come was insurmountable for many of them. So, a group of students and I got together, fundraised and wrote grant applications, and now we regularly take Tanzanian medical students for a one-month elective experience in marginalized and under resourced medicine in Canada.
Last year I made the decision to complete my Masters in Tropical Medicine and International Health, through the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. My commute now involved planes instead of cars, and got a lot longer. But I knew this public health school would give me the skills and inspiration to continue my work in marginalize and under resourced health. We have the unfortunate ability to see diseases of poverty right here in our own back yards in Canada, with tuberculosis, HIV and malnutrition being diseases I deal with commonly. Whether I am working on the Eden Valley reserve or in Laos or Tanzania, I am dealing with poverty medicine. And we know poverty disproportionately affects women.
I was surprised and very honored when I received notification of the Margaret Owen Waite award this summer. The Federation of Medical Women in Canada lifts women in their pursuit of providing care, compassion and equity in our chosen profession as physicians. I am so very grateful for the generous support of the Federation Members which allow women physicians to pursue their goals.
THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart. I am deeply honored to have been chosen for this aware and to be a member of this organization.
Dr. Amy Gausvik, BScPharm, MD, FCFP, DTM&H
Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine
Master Teacher, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
Family Physician in Low Risk Obstetrics, Indigenous Health and Global Health
Want to help support Dr. Gausvik’s work in helping bring Tanzanian medical students to Canada, as a fair and reciprocal exchange for Canadian medical students going to Tanzania? You can donate your Aeroplan miles. To do so, log in to Aeroplan.com, and then select the “Global Health Reciprocity Project” through the Donate Miles tab.