2004 – British Columbia
Dr Ray McIlwain graduated from medical school at Queen’s University in 1973. Upon completing an internship at Vancouver General Hospital, his dream was to practice overseas.With limited training and experience that was unrealistic, but Dr Don Watt, a past-president of The College of Family Physicians of Canada, and then Director of United Church Health Services offered to send him ‘overseas’ to Bella Bella, a First Nations community on Campbell Island off the central coast of British Columbia.
In 1981, after further training in family medicine, anaesthesia, and surgery, he and his family moved from Bella Bella to Bella Coola, B.C., a small community of 2,500 people located 115 kilometres away on the mainland central coast. In the mid 80’s he began his involvement with the training of University of British Columbia family practice residents in rural areas. He continues his work as a clinical associate professor with this rural training program spearheaded by Dr Carl Whiteside of the UBC, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Family Practice, and feels it has been an important part of his practice. He believes rural medicine is a challenging and exciting field that is too often overlooked by students. He and his colleagues welcome students and residents to Bella Coola, which he calls the best kept secret in Canada, with its beautiful mountain valley and salmon-filled river.
In 1999, he fulfilled his dream of practicing overseas and spent three months at a hospital in Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. What impressed him most was the high level of care offered there to over 100,000 patients on a shoe-string budget. He also spent six months in Australia in 1996, and had the opportunity to work with aboriginal people there. It left him with a distinct distaste for two-tiered medicine. Dr McIlwain was awarded Fellowship in The College of Family Physicians in 1997. He is married to Moira, a physiotherapist, and has four children between the ages of 20 and 28. His hobbies include music, theatre, horseback riding and travelling.