British Columbia native Dr. Tessa Bendyshe-Walton is a long way from her immediate family, but the first-year medical resident isn’t alone on PEI; she’s surrounded by a different kind of family now that she’s a part of the PEI Family Medicine Residency Program.
Dr. Bendyshe-Walton is one of ten family medicine residents on the Island enrolled in the two-year program. PEI is a training site under the Dalhousie Family Medicine Residency Program which provides specialized training in family medicine to students who have completed their four-year medical degree. Dr. Bendyshe-Walton was also eager to roll up her sleeves and make a difference in the medical community by joining the Medical Society of Prince Edward Island’s Board of Directors as its resident representative.
“Even though we’re from all over the country, we’re a close-knit group. We spend a lot of time together both throughout the program and for social gatherings,” Dr. Bendyshe-Walton said. “It does feel a bit like a family because no one understands what your residency experience is like better than your co-residents.”
While on PEI, the medical residents receive in-depth clinical experience, weekly academic teaching, and build on their skills as physicians. Residents train under the guidance of practicing physicians known as preceptors. Throughout the two years, residents play an increasingly vital role in the care of Islanders, and, by their second year, assist significantly with the patient workload of their supervising physician.
“On an annual basis, we have five medical residents in the first year of the program and five in the second year. At the moment we have a lovely bunch of young people in the program. The second-years mentor the first-years. They have quite a good bond. It’s something we see year after year,” said Dr. Padraig Casey, MSPEI’s past president and the current site director for the PEI Family Medicine Residency Program. “There’s huge support for the residency program throughout PEI. All of our physicians here know the value of it because they see the number of doctors currently working in our healthcare system who have come through this very same residency program. We get high-quality residents and we’re very fortunate to have them here as part of our medical community.”
PEI became a training site for Dalhousie University in 2009 and is one of 11 distributed family medicine education sites across the Maritimes. Since partnering with Dalhousie, there have been ten family medicine residents working on the Island annually. The retention rate for those who come through the program and choose to remain as practicing physicians on PEI is approximately 70 per cent. Dalhousie’s Department of Family Medicine recognizes the opportunity to increase these retention rates—supplying PEI and the Maritimes with more family doctors—by advocating for well supported team-based learning environments and a revised curriculum with an emphasis on collaborative care.
“We’ve been working on a program expansion for the past year, and this summer will be the first time we are taking on seven first-year residents instead of five,” Dr. Casey said. “It’s an exciting time but we must acknowledge that physicians from tip-to-tip are constantly being asked to do more. This program is essentially physicians training physicians and it’s a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding, which is why I think we had such an enthusiastic response when we asked if more residents could be accommodated. The preceptors get a lot in return; new knowledge from new residents, new ideas based on new curriculum, and the program brings highly valued diversity and academic rigour to our system. We have to keep on our toes to educate the physicians of the future.”
Verna McInnis has been the site administrator for the PEI Family Medicine Residency Program since 2018. She said the new cohort of residents each year is the main reason she loves her work.
“We get to know each and every one of the residents as individuals and it’s so rewarding to see them go through the program and flourish,” said McInnis. “It’s very rewarding to see their success when they graduate and even more so when quite a few choose to stay and work in PEI. Some even go full circle, returning to the program post-residency training as part of the site’s teaching faculty. I hope the program always lives up to their expectations and once they have completed their residency training, they consider PEI as their new home, a great place to live and work. They play an important role in the care of patients of all ages throughout PEI’s healthcare system and we are lucky to have them.”
Dr. Bendyshe-Walton isn’t sure what the future holds for her yet, but she is sure she made the right choice in selecting PEI for her residency.
“I wanted to explore the landscape of family medicine in the Maritimes and the program in PEI stood out because of the broad scope of work and the opportunity to work in the Patient Medical Home model of care,” said Dr. Bendyshe-Walton. “The PEI program has a lot of flexibility and opportunities to explore different areas of interest and we get a lot of support being in such a small province. With that, we also have the added bonus of getting to work one-on-one in both rural and urban settings and with some independence. It’s been a really great experience so far.”
This week marks Resident Doctor Appreciation Week, a national celebration and opportunity to thank and acknowledge medical residents for their dedication to the medical field and their significant contributions to the health of the communities they serve. Dr. Casey hopes the residents know just how valued and appreciated they are on PEI.
“Every year we get a fresh batch of learners and it’s reinvigorating each time. They challenge us and call us out when things aren’t quite right. We have to work hard to keep our standards high and be able to provide top-quality training,” he said. “I appreciate the residents very much as colleagues. These are physicians willingly choosing to work in our system alongside us, actively caring for Islanders with their peers. We’re grateful to be a training site, appreciative of our preceptors and those who support the residents along the way and are thankful to have such an influx of wonderful personalities and talents joining us each year.”
As a training site for the Dalhousie Family Medicine Residency Program, PEI is fortunate to have five first-year and five second-year residents who chose the Island for their residency.
Special thanks to our current medical residents:
First-year residents: Dr. Ryland Murphy, Dr. Josef Landine, Dr. Sina Sedighi, Dr. Sonia Pinderi, Dr. Tessa Bendyshe-Walton, and Dr. Ivana Drobac.
Second-year residents: Dr. Alana Dickieson, Dr. Benjamin MacDonald, Dr. Christianne Blais, Dr. Maia Idzikowski, Dr. Jelisa Bradley, and Dr. Rob Reddin.
For more information on the PEI Family Medicine Residency Program, visit: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/health-pei/family-medicine-residency-program
For more information on the Dalhousie Family Medicine Residency Program, visit https://medicine.dal.ca/departments/department-sites/family/education/postgraduate.html