Rural practice has been rewarding for retiring doctor

After 33 years of practice in Sylvan Lake and Eckville, Dr. Ron Smith has semi-retired.

After 33 years of practice in Sylvan Lake and Eckville, Dr. Ron Smith has semi-retired.

He plans to “read all the books I never had time to read, get back into bagpipe playing, and spend quality time with my kids, wife, grandkids, and dogs.”

He will continue to run the Bentley Medical Clinic part-time with his wife, as he has done for the past 12 and a half years.

“We’re going to help folks out,” said Smith in a soft Scottish accent, adding that there are no other doctors in Bentley.

Smith graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1973. He worked in Scotland before immigrating to Canada in 1975 and completing a residency at the University of Alberta. He came to Sylvan Lake in 1978.

“We thought that Canada was the land of opportunity I guess,” said Smith, adding that there were 3,000 people in Sylvan Lake at the time.

The first few years of work were tough, said Smith. He was on-call every second night and every second weekend.

“The job came first and the family came second. And I regret that now,” he said, adding that he was brought up in the Scottish tradition with a strong work ethic. “My wife says I’m a workaholic.”

Smith has been working at the Bentley clinic by himself since it began. He said he couldn’t have run it without the help of his wife, who worked as a nurse.

“In the early years she was more like a single parent because I was away so much,” said Smith. “There was no doctor in town, and we felt we needed to help out the people.” Smith and his wife have been married for 47 years.

Practicing in a rural area has been very rewarding because of the variety he’s seen, the people he’s gotten to know, and the scope of his practice. He has been able to treat conditions that would not be seen in a city. Rural physicians look after their own problems, and are limited only by their own limitations, said Smith.

“We try and do everything ourselves. The important thing is to know your own limitations,” said Smith. He added that if he had doubts about a case, it was better to refer it to someone who knew more about it.

Smith said he used to enjoy delivering babies.

“I thought it was probably time to quit when people came to me and said, ‘Oh, you delivered me,’ and they’re having their own baby,” he said.

Smith said family practice has changed significantly in the last 10-15 years. There has been more government intervention, he said, adding that he’s not sure if that’s a good thing. He also said family physicians are different than they used to be, because they take more time off to spend with their families, which he said he would do if he had his time over again. There is also now a greater reliance on technology, said Smith, adding that he thinks the change is good.

“A lot of what we had to rely on was clinical training.” He added that now, physicians are able to get more definitive answers more quickly.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Smith when asked why he chose such a demanding profession. “It’s telling that none of my sons went into medicine, because they saw the lifestyle.”

Smith plans to continue living at his current residence in Half Moon Bay, and said he has enjoyed helping people during his years in family practice.

“It’s very rewarding,” he said. “I loved it. I wouldn’t do anything else.”