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“Hard and frustrating years” for doctor to realize NS dream

Dr. Ehab Soliman
Dr. Ehab Soliman - Mark Goudge

For Ehab Soliman, the Canadian Dream often felt like chasing a mirage.

Now a family physician at Stellarton Medical Centre, it took him more than three “hard and frustrating years,” and four exams before the Egyptian-born doctor could practice medicine in Nova Scotia.

Even after jumping through all the hoops, there was no guarantee that Soliman could find work in his field, and a medical degree from Cairo’s Ain Shams University counted for little in his new home.

“So many times, I thought of returning to Egypt, as [there] seemed [to be] no light at the end of the tunnel. But with my wife’s support and encouragement I was able to persevere,” Soliman said in an email Friday.

He completed his fourth and final exam in Manitoba under that province’s Clinician Assessment and Professional Program.

This was similar to Nova Scotia’s own Clinician Assessment for Practice Program, which allowed international doctors to work under supervision on a provisional license, before they became fully qualified.

Nova Scotia’s CAPP program, which took in 10 to 12 doctors per year, was cancelled in 2015.

Many foreign-born doctors aim to work in major cities like Toronto or Vancouver, where they often find large communities from their birth nations nearby.

But finding work in the cities is tough, and Soliman had to look for job openings elsewhere, like many of his peers.

His only option was seeking work in an under-served area, which for him meant taking a job in Pictou County.

Soliman may not have realized it when he first moved here in 1999, but it was here that he found his very own slice of the Canadian Dream.

“We loved the area, me and my wife, and we stayed and raised our boy and girl,” Soliman said in an email Thursday night. “Pictou County became our home.”

While delighted to finally realize his Canadian Dream, working as a family doctor here is no picnic.

Soliman has 4,000 patients on his books and typically has between 30 and 40 coming to see him every day, fairly typical for “traditional” family doctors in Nova Scotia.

Physicians who work in new collaborative care practices only have about 1,500 to 2,000 patients registered. These doctors are also supported by nurse practitioners and nurses, mental health specialists, social workers and other professionals.

But all Nova Scotian doctors face a common problem: if their spouses cannot find work of their own, many physicians will up and leave, a serious problem for rural areas like Pictou County.

This includes foreign-born doctors, but Soliman was one of the lucky ones.

“We had a great support from the medical community, church community and lots of friends that welcomed us into their homes,” said Soliman.

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