The Agassiz Community Health Centre welcomed its newest doctor to the community last month.
Nikki Cohen, 34, came to Canada after working as a family doctor in South Africa for seven years. She came to Canada with her husband, an anesthetist now working in Abbotsford, and has been practicing in Agassiz since the middle of March.
“We wanted to come to a country that was safe with a better future,” she said.
“So we were looking at a few places and this was the most beautiful,” she added. “It worked out for us, because we needed a rural place and a bigger place … so it had the best of both for us.”
Because Cohen is an international doctor, she’s required to spend at least three years working in a rural community. In British Columbia, rural communities face significant challenges when it comes to health, particularly in getting access to doctors and services.
“I obviously come from the third world, so I think the resources are amazing,” Cohen said, “but obviously, relatively, there are challenges for people.”
For Agassiz, like other rural communities, the main challenge is access, Cohen said.
“They’re trying to improve that by having us come and help,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a wait to get certain tests, scans, specialist bookings.”
Cohen is still accepting new patients; the ones she has are either new to the community, haven’t had a doctor in a long time, or had a doctor who left or retired.
“I haven’t been seeing too many people because of the high turnover,” she said, referencing the number of doctors that have come into and left the community over the years. “I think people who are worried about the high turnover have found doctors in Chilliwack and don’t want to leave them for now.”
And as for Cohen’s future plans?
“I’m here for at least three years, if everything goes well, longer,” she said. “You can never promise I’m going to say I’m going to be here for the rest of my life, because I don’t know that. But I’m not going back to South Africa.”