Pincher Creek has a new doctor, and he plans to stay for years to come.
Dr. Kunmi Akarakiri, a Nigerian expat with over 10 years’ experience in rural medicine, is a welcome addition to Pincher Creek Health Centre’s ER and neighbouring Associate Clinic, where a handful of GPs have held the fort for years.
His arrival in mid May brought the number of full-time docs at the centre and clinic from five to six, according to the clinic’s executive director, Jeff Brockmann.
Another doctor had joined both rosters in the new year, but is no longer practising at the clinic.
“The adaptation for me has been very easy,” Akarakiri told Shootin’ the Breeze.
It took him a little over a year after landing in Canada in December 2020 to clear most of the regulatory hurdles set by Alberta’s College of Physicians & Surgeons.
“I was lucky,” he said, noting that the process can take two to three years for many foreign-trained GPs.
He’d never seen snow before passing his first winter in Kamloops, B.C.
“When I got there, I thought to myself, ‘The snow is bad. But it’s not that bad.’ Then I moved to Calgary,” he said with a laugh.
If the white stuff was bad west of the Rockies, it wasn’t long before he suffered a minor case of frostbite in Cowtown.
When he toured Pincher Creek with ER chief Dr. Gavin Parker last August, the only concern he left with had to do with the town’s notorious chinooks.
“I was told that, sometimes, the wind can blow against you,” he told the Breeze in what has to be the understatement of the year.
It remains for him to wrap up the college’s supervised practical experience, which Brockman explained will be monitored by a doctor from outside the community, in order to avoid any conflict of interest.
Akarakiri said he then hopes to sign a five-year contract with Alberta Health Services.
In the meantime, he plans to settle into his new rental — a rare find in a small town that’s up against a housing crunch — and then welcome his wife, Hephzibah, and their young daughter, Megan.
“It’s a nice community,” he said, complimenting Canadians’ friendliness and easy-going nature.
Akarakiri graduated medical school in Nigeria in 2012. He practised rural medicine for seven years in the southwestern town of Ile-Ife before moving to Canada, he told the Breeze.
Learn more about Dr. Akarakiri in this episode of The Innovative Practitioner.