Dr. René Soucy, Whitehorse General Hospital’s new chief of medical staff, poses for a photo in an emergency room on May 2. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon Hospital Corp. welcomes new chief of medical staff

‘I certainly welcome the challenge’

Not many retirement plans include finding a full-time job. Dr. René Soucy’s did, though it was kind of an accident.

This June, Soucy will start as the new chief of medical staff for the territory’s three hospitals, including Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake.

The job wasn’t on his radar when he and his wife made plans last year for Soucy’s June 2018 retirement from his position as physician-advisor with the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). He was, however, already planning to move to Whitehorse to be closer to his son and grandson, who moved here in 2014.

“We started to come here quite frequently to the point where it became our second home and my wife basically two years ago said, ‘I’m here. I’m staying here. You have to make your call here pretty soon,’” says Soucy.

Last October, he had a chance encounter with a local doctor that opened up the possibility. It was just one of those things, Soucy says — he started chatting with a stranger.

When that possibility became a reality, Soucy bumped up his retirement from the CMPA, where he had been for 10 years. There, he advised on patient and hospital issues, worked on threats of legal action, promoted safe medical care, and made sure physicians were heard.

Before that, he spent almost 30 years as a general practitioner, most of them in British Columbia.

Soucy joked that taking an administrative position means he’s switched over to the dark side, but he says he thinks his previous experience as a doctor, as well as his experience working directly with doctors, will help him in this new role that he says differs from his previous work.

“I think the first appeal for me was, it came as a curiosity,” he says. “What is this all about? And then, is this something you want to do and do you have the energy to do it?”

Soucy says he looked to previous experience. Ten years ago, he was in a comfort zone in his medical practice when the opportunity came along to work with the CMPA. He had a curiosity about it at the time, though he knew it would be tough to make a career change.

“The transition was significant. The learning curve was steep,” he says. “But I really enjoyed the challenge and I found it rewarding and there was something instinctively that was telling me do it — go and do it. I think that instinct is there. The energy is there. The curiosity is there.”

The personal draw is also there.

“I was stunned by the geography the first time I landed in Whitehorse,” he says. The light, the nature, the culture, and the opportunity for outdoor activities all appealed to him.

It also reminds him of other places he’s lived. Soucy is from Quebec, and was pleasantly surprised by the strong Francophone community in Whitehorse. And the mountains reminded him of the years he spent working in B.C., in Surrey and Kamloops.

“This is a nice extension (of that) without having to deal with the traffic and the price of housing,” he says.

Though he doesn’t officially take over until June from former chief of medical staff, Dr. Wayne MacNicol, Soucy has been spending time at the hospital every day, getting up to speed on the job, which includes reporting to the CO, managing and organizing medical staff, resolving complaints and making sure committees are functioning.

He says he’ll also be focused on reassuring doctors of what his role is, and fostering communication, because he says there can be mistrust between doctors and the chief of medical staff.

“I certainly welcome the challenge and I think I can, with that past 10 years of dealing with physicians directly, I think I can add this to the medical community in terms of my background and hopefully we can continue to work hand in hand.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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