Three Pictou County residents graduate from Dalhousie Medical School this spring

Published on June 27, 2014


Ashley Sutherland had the idea that she might become a doctor when she was quite young.

“My father passed away with cancer when I was six,” she says. “That’s the first time it became a thought in my head. All through school I was interested in biology and science.”

The daughter of Ellen Fanning and the late Ricky Sutherland grew up in Pictou. She graduated from Pictou Academy in 2002, with the distinction of being the top female in her graduating class.

From there Sutherland completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology at St. FX University, and then obtained a Master of Science from the University of Calgary. In May, she graduated with a Doctor of Medicine designation from Dalhousie University.

Now, she’s embarking on the final stage of her journey to become a doctor – beginning the first year of a five-year residency in dermatology in Halifax.

“I love the interactions with people. I love seeing people from every walk of life from kids to adults and from every background,” she says. “I find it really rewarding trying to make a difference in people’s lives.”

During her first year at Dalhousie’s medical school, Sutherland was featured in The News while job shadowing Dr. Ehab Soliman, a family doctor at the Stellarton Professional Centre. That was the first year the university offered a new program designed to expose students to medicine in rural areas. Six first-year Dalhousie medical students participated.

Sutherland said the job shadowing was a valuable tool. “I learned a ton. I saw a lot of common things, treatment options for those things, different procedures, even observed how a physician goes through a visit… I saw all ages, a little bit of every area of medicine.”

During her third year of studies, she also spent three weeks working with Dr. Aaron Smith and Dr. Brad MacDougall at the Westville Medical Clinic.

“It was a fantastic experience,” she says, adding that she learned a great deal from the local physicians. “I was lucky to be able to do a number of rotations here over the last four years.”

Kristian Taylor also completed rotations at the Westville clinic as part of her Doctor of Medicine degree at Dalhousie, and graduated with Sutherland in May.

“I did a fair amount of my core rotations in Pictou County,” says Taylor, who grew up in Scotsburn.

She spent time at the Westville clinic in 2011 and 2013. “The Westville clinic was really great to work in – in terms of seeing patients, they were really willing to have students around.”

She says the rotation gave her a good picture of what it’s like to work in a small town. “I was there twice – it was a really good experience.”

The West Pictou District High School graduate also did rotations at the Aberdeen Hospital with Dr. Wassim El-Zubeidi (Internal Medicine), Dr. Changulanda Joshi (Obstetrics/Gynecology) and Dr. Deborah Straub (Emergency Medicine). As well, she worked with Dr. Gordon Young in Pictou in 2011 for her rural week placement.

While completing her undergraduate degree in science, Taylor began thinking about becoming a doctor. “I took physiology and medicine-related courses and that’s when I seriously knew I wanted to be a doctor – I really enjoyed them.”

And her stints at the Westville clinic and with Dr. Young helped to reinforce her decision to pursue family medicine.

“The family doctors I worked with in Pictou County were the most influential for me, as they were great teachers and helped solidify my interest in family medicine as a profession,” she says.

“I knew right away that I wanted to do family medicine because of the variety of things you get to do every day. I really like being in a community setting rather than a hospital. I like the continuity of care you get in family medicine.”

This week Taylor, the daughter of Cliff and Cara Taylor, began her two-year residency at the Mumford Professional Centre in Halifax.

While at university, she received the Ross Stewart Smith Scholarship from the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine for academic standing in the top 10 per cent in her first three years. She completed her Bachelor of Science there in 2006 and her Master of Business Administration in 2010.

Like Taylor and Sutherland, River John native Derek Minney also received his Doctor of Medicine from Dalhousie in May.

The son of John and Margaret Minney, he graduated from West Pictou District High School in 2000. He did all of his post-secondary schooling at Dalhousie, completing a Bachelor of Science and a Master in Science there. “I’m a lifer,” he says.

Minney accepted an entrance scholarship to Dalhousie, and during his time there, was on the Dean’s List, received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council post-graduate scholarship for four years, and received the President’s Award scholarship.

He’s now starting a five-year residency in Halifax in the field of pathology, the branch of medicine concerned with the cause, origin, and nature of disease.

Minney first thought about becoming a doctor when he was in junior high and high school, and when he went to university, found that he enjoyed research.

“When I went to grad school I liked working in the lab,” he says. “I worked with several pathologists and decided that was more interesting to me – it’s more directly applicable to something than basic science research.”

He also thought working in medicine would be more rewarding.

“Once I was in medical school I did rotations through all of the different programs and decided to apply for pathology.”

He enjoys the variety and challenges presented by his chosen field. “Every day there are different problems to solve – there’s always something to learn. We’re never finished learning. We’re always trying to come up with better ways of doing things.”

Like Minney, Sutherland appreciates the challenges of medicine and dermatology.

“I really find the complexity of the medicine very interesting. A lot of different conditions – acute and chronic – are manifestations in the skin. I love being a problem solver. Skin cancer is a prevalent issue in our society and I feel like I can make a big impact through screening and treatment of that,” she says.

The three medical residents aren’t sure what the future may bring after finishing their training.

“My plans after I complete my residency? I hope to stay in Nova Scotia or Atlantic Canada, but it depends on where there are jobs,” says Minney.

Taylor says she’s trying to figure out what the future holds. “I plan to set up a practice in Pictou County eventually, however, at this point I haven't decided if that will be right after my residency training is complete in two years, or further down the road. This is something that I will decide over the next two years.”

“I would love to work in Pictou County in some aspect,” says Sutherland. “It’s still home for me – all my family and friends are here. I would love to be able to give back to my community down the road if possible.”


Where Are They Now? is a monthly feature that seeks out former newsmakers from Pictou County to find out what they’ve been doing since they first appeared in the newspaper. If there’s someone you would like to find out about, please submit their name to Sueann Musick at Carol Dunn is a freelance writer, and former newspaper reporter and editor, who lives in New Glasgow.