Nigerian Doctors find new home and community in Fort St. John

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The B.C. Government has shared the story of two doctors and their family who uprooted from their lives in Nigeria to practice medicine in Canada — specifically, Fort St. John.

Married doctors Fola and Abbie Olajide are not just celebrating their first Christmas in British Columbia with their family this year, but they are also celebrating finding new jobs and a sense of community in town.

“Not only did our realtor help us buy our home, but she made sure it had food and essentials we’d need when we moved in,” said Fola. “The other doctors in town are wonderful – sharing professional knowledge during emergency room shifts, as well as hosting potluck dinners to welcome us into the community.”

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The doctor shortage has been partially remedied recently with the addition of half a dozen new doctors, and that shortage has been apparent to Abbie. He says patients have shouted with excitement when he tells them he is able to accept them into his practice.

“That appreciation by our patients and warmth of the community, along with incredible staff at Northern Health, makes working in Fort St. John very rewarding,” said Abbie.

The duo trained and worked in Nigeria, coming to Canada at the end of 2013. They arrived in Ontario to stay with friends and family before heading out west and taking part in B.C.’s Practice Ready Assessment program, which made it possible for them to use their skills and training as doctors together here in B.C.

The B.C. government says the Practice Ready Assessment Program will assess up to 55 internationally trained family physicians between April 2015 and January 2017. Successful applicants commit to a three-year return of service in a rural or remote community in B.C. — Countries that do not have reciprocal agreements with the College of Family Physicians of Canada, such as South Africa, China, India and Nigeria, have the physicians that are assessed for this program.

Fort St. John and the Northern Health Authority worked with the program’s selection committee to sponsor doctors that they felt would be a good fit for the city. The couple then underwent a comprehensive formal skills assessment in Vancouver, followed by a further three-month assessment in Valemount, before arriving here.

While the Olajide family won’t be gathering with friends and family this year, they were pleasantly surprised to discover a tight-knit African community in Fort St. John, both among other doctors and attending Northern Lights College. Fola says they will be having a small get-together over the holidays with new friends, and seeing patients while other doctors take a holiday.

Adjusting to the weather has been a drastic change, but the couple, along with their children, are looking forward to pursing new outdoor hobbies this region is known for, and their new lives in the Energetic City.


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