MONTREAL, QC: An Isle Madame native who has cultivated an innovative medical practice in Lunenburg over the past 12 years is “humbled” to receive an award from the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC).
Dr. David Martell was named Nova Scotia’s recipient of the CFPC’s Family Physician of the Year Award at a ceremony held on October 14 in Halifax. He will join 11 other award-winners from Canada’s provinces and territories at a follow-up ceremony to be held at the CFPC’s national conference in Vancouver on November 11.
Speaking to The Reporter during his participation in a medical conference in Montreal, Dr. Martell admitted that the original news of his award win “felt almost embarrassing” but added that he is grateful to be recognized by his peers.
“I think that, for me, it gave me a sense that the work I do has value, not just to my colleagues but to myself,” said the Arichat native, who arrived at his current home base of Lunenburg in 2004 and now serves patients from a clinic based at Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital.
“I’ve managed to coalesce with a lot of other doctors into a collaborative practice, and we get along very well. We’ve been the same group for seven years now, we support and respect each other, and we work as a team, which is fantastic.”
Among Dr. Martell’s most notable accomplishments is his approach to patients struggling with alcohol or drug addiction. He is one of only 85 doctors in Nova Scotia that can prescribe methadone for addiction to opioids, which include oxycondone, morphine and codeine. In the five years since his first treatment of an opioid-addicted patient, Dr. Martell has sought to expand this sector of the medical profession beyond the long-held belief that patients can only be treated for addiction once the substance in question is completely removed from their bodies.
“I think that’s foolish – I think we can help people no matter where we are,” he declared.
“As a society, we think in those terms of absolutes, that if you have an issue with substances, what you must do is completely cleanse yourself of them and walk away from them. In the real world, that’s not realistic and it’s sometimes not possible. So we have to work with people regardless of whether they continue their behaviour with respect to taking substances like alcohol or drugs.”
Although he has practiced medicine for 17 years following his graduation from Dalhousie University, Dr. Martell still turns to the example his parents, retired teachers Velma and Phyllis Martell, provided in his formative years.
“It was ingrained in us – from a very young age – that if you don’t know something, there are many ways to find out and to pursue your curiosity,” Dr. Martell recalled.
“So it’s kind of coming back on me right now that, somewhere within me, there must be a teacher, because I have a desire not just to learn, but to help other
s learn about this kind of narrow field that I’ve come to have more expertise in.”