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Welcoming Family Medicine Physician Dr. Joel Arsenault to Southwestern Nova Scotia

Dr. Joel Arsenault exemplifies the core values of rural medicine–dedication, resilience, and a deep connection with the community. Starting his practice just last fall in southwestern Nova Scotia, he is eager to make a meaningful impact on the health and well-being of residents in Digby and Clare, addressing a crucial gap in access to primary healthcare in the area.

Originally from a small Acadian community in Prince Edward Island, Dr. Arsenault completed his primary and secondary education in French. Introduced to the southwestern part of the province while attending Université Sainte-Anne, Dr. Arsenault went on to pursue his Medical Doctorate at L'Université de Sherbrooke.

After completing residency training in Moncton as part of Dalhousie University's family medicine program last summer, Dr. Arsenault now divides his time between Digby and Clare, dedicating two days a week to each community. This story is one of full circle connections and shows the potential of communities who invest in medical learners early in their journey.

Transitioning from a medical learner to starting his own practice last fall brought its own set of challenges for Dr. Arsenault.

"The pressure is definitely higher when you're responsible for your own patients without anyone double-checking your work. However, I've been fortunate to have a lot of support, especially because I knew some of the doctors from both places,” said Dr. Arsenault. “Having done clinical rotations in Clare, I was familiar with all the doctors here, which gave me confidence in knowing I'd have a strong support network."

His decision to practice in the Southwest of Nova Scotia is not only a testament to his commitment to rural medicine but also a personal one, as he met his wife, a Digby native, during his undergraduate years.

Dr. Arsenault had connections with the Nova Scotia Health Physician Recruitment team throughout his training, especially Karma Chickoski, Physician Recruitment Consultant for Western Zone.

"After being connected by the former MLA in Digby, I invited Dr. Arsenault to a networking event in Sherbrooke for medical students when he was at L'Université de Sherbrooke in 2018,” explained Karma. "I remember dropping by to see him one summer while he worked in Digby."

During his medical training, Dr. Arsenault conducted research on the unique challenges faced by rural healthcare providers, shedding light on the disparities in access to specialized care and the importance of community support systems.  Despite being well-informed of the challenges of rural practice, Dr. Arsenault knew he wanted to pursue rural family medicine.

"Growing up in a rural area, I was always drawn to family medicine. There's a sense of fulfillment in knowing that you're filling a gap in healthcare access,” said Dr. Arsenault.

Outside of medicine, Dr. Arsenault enjoys spending time playing sports, whether it's hitting the ice for a game of hockey in winter or teeing off on the golf course during the summer months. Welcome to Southwest Nova Scotia, Dr. Arsenault!

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