Dr. Carl Marshall

HAMILTON, ONTARIO: A local man is returning home to the east coast this week to pursue his goal of practicing family medicine.

This month, Carl Marshall completed his medical degree at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. Marshall is currently in the process of moving with his family to Corner Brook, Newfoundland where he will complete his residency through Memorial University.

Marshall, who grew up in Potlotek and Sydney, knew before he entered medical school that he wanted to return home to the Maritimes where doctors are often in short supply.

“Part of the reason I wanted to go to medical school was so that I could be a doctor back home,” said Marshall. “I have such a large family here in Cape Breton. It gives you confidence, and I think being able to come back and help the people that I grew up with is rewarding in itself.”

After he finishes his residency, Marshall hopes to return to the Sydney area with his partner Timika, and son Asher who is now five months old.

Marshall said his Mi’kmaw background has helped shape his desire to pursue medicine.

“There’s a shortage of doctors everywhere in Cape Breton, but especially in First Nations communities such as my own back in Potlotek,” Marshall said. “It’s definitely different growing up in these communities versus in the city where there are a lot of doctors nearby. That’s part of why I wanted to come back.”

To his knowledge, Marshall is the only Mi’kmaw doctor from Cape Breton.

“My family is from the reservation, and my father is a chief there. It’s definitely influenced part of me wanting to do this, because growing up I didn’t see any Mi’kmaw doctors,” he said. “For me it’s trying to push the barriers and be one of the first just to show that it can be done.”

Marshall said practicing family medicine in a rural area presents a unique set of rewards and challenges.

“Rurally, the big thing is resources, and knowing what you have available to you,” he said. “It’s different if you have an MRI available in 20 minutes versus a few months.”

Marshall added that rural areas also tend to have fewer specialists, which can impact family medicine.

“It means you have to be more comfortable as a family doctor with some things you might not have to be in a city centre,” he said.

While completing his medical degree, Marshall noticed what he feels is an under-representation of students from rural areas in the program.

“If we want more doctors rurally, we should be trying to get as many students into medical school as we can,” he said. “Making it potentially easier for those types of students would probably be our best bet.”

Marshall said he and his family are excited to return to the lifestyle offered in the East coast.

“For me, it’s the sense of community. You’re really making an impact on these communities, and you’re needed. It’s really rewarding just to work at the end of the day and know you’re giving back,” said Marshall. “I grew up in a small town with a small town feel, so it’s really where I wanted to be. It’s where I feel the most comfortable.”