Monthly Archives: December 2011

Finding A Family Doctor in Winnipeg

I just had my first visit with my new family doctor on Friday and I am very pleased. She was friendly, asked questions that showed a genuine interest in me, and told me she would never be too busy to help me if I had a critical health concern. This was just my initial ‘meet and greet’ session with the doctor but I was encouraged. After nearly four months of searching for a female family physician in Manitoba, I was so relieved to have finally found a doctor, and a cordial, caring one at that.

A few weeks after moving to Winnipeg from Hong Kong I began asking people how to find a family doctor. Most shook their heads and gave me dismal odds on having luck in my search for a physician who would actually be taking new patients. My sister-in-law told me to call The Family Doctor Line operated by the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons. That was how she’d found a doctor for her son. I tried this. The first thing they told me was there were no female doctors in the city taking new patients, but they did recommend two male doctors who were. 

Out of curiosity I looked the two gentlemen up on the internet. The Rate the Doctor website gave both uniformly bad reviews. One respondent said he always arrived two hours after his actual appointment time and had never missed an appointment yet. Others mentioned waits of three to four hours and emphasized that these doctors were ‘two question’ doctors. You could only ask two questions per visit. 

I decided to strike out on my own. I began calling clinics in the city asking if they had female family doctors taking new patients. After about the 10th call I struck it lucky. Yes, one clinic had a female doctor taking new patients, but I would have to wait a full three months before she’d have time in her schedule for our ‘meet and greet.’  The receptionist mentioned three times that this doctor would not prescribe narcotics. I checked this out with a medical professional later, and they told me perhaps the doctor had been in trouble in the past for over prescribing addictive medications so her licence to prescribe certain drugs had been removed. This did not instill much confidence in me. 

Someone  suggested I go to the Winnipeg Regional Health Access Clinic on Main Street near my home. They said a clinical nurse specialist would see me there, assess my needs and recommend a physician as necessary. I went and began filling out a registration form. I asked the receptionist what would happen when the form was filled out. “We file it”, she said ” and call you when we have someone available to see you.”  I asked how long that would be. “At least six months” , she replied, “but perhaps up to a year.” I left without filling out the form. 

Then while lunching with friends from Steinbach,  a city about 40 miles away, I talked about my problem finding a physician, and one mentioned she had found a female family doctor at the Green Crest Clinic on Pembina Highway. She had gone to the Winnipeg walk -in clinic with bad cold symptoms, because she had been unable to get on with a physician in Steinbach. At Greencrest she had been seen by a friendly and competent woman. “Are you taking new patients?” she asked. When the female doctor said she was, my friend signed on immediately as a patient. 

I didn’t waste any time. The very next morning I was at the Greencrest Clinic when they opened and not only could I get on as a patient with a female physician, I would only have to wait a week to see her. Amazing!! I looked the doctor up on the internet and her reviews were satisfactory, with a few patients singing her praises and a few others calling her competent but curt. By this time I was more than happy to take competent but curt. 

I saw her on Friday and she wasn’t curt at all. She spoke with a slight accent, but I could easily understand her and she asked questions not only about my health, but my family and background. She was interested in the fact I had taught in Hong Kong and even complimented me on my outfit and asked where I’d got the necklace I was wearing. She told me some doctors only let you ask them two questions a visit, but she wanted me to know that she would never be too busy to listen to any critical health concern I had. She took my blood pressure, gave me a flu shot and told me to make an appointment for a complete physical at my convenience. “Tell the receptionist to set aside at least 30 minutes, so I have enough time for you”, she said.  

It took a bit of doing – it certainly wasn’t the efficient and speedy process by which I found an excellent and unbelievably thorough family physician in Hong Kong –but I finally have a female family physician here in Winnipeg!

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The Dark Side of William Kurelek

This week I went to see the William Kurelek exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I knew William’s work from his delightful books that catalogue life on the prairies in the mid 1900’s.  This summer I had seen a Kurelek series at the Ukrainian Museum in Saskatoon that depicted what life was like on the prairies for pioneer women. I was also familiar with Kurelek’s Northern Nativity in which he imagines the Christ Child coming in the present day to the north. He depicts the Christmas story happening in places like a fisherman’s hut or a cowboy’s barn.

My favorite Kurelek paintings were a series I saw at an art gallery in Ottawa that showed the experience of immigrants from the Ukraine traveling to Canada,

building communities on the prairie,

and becoming successful farmers. I think I liked this Kurelek series so much, because my grandparents were immigrants from the Ukraine who helped to build communities and establish farms on the Canadian prairies. 

In all the work of Kurelek I’d seen, he’d painted an almost idyllic picture of life on the prairie. From what I knew of Kurelek he affirmed life, faith, community and family. I hadn’t seen Kurelek’s dark side till I visited the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s exhibit about his life’s work.  In his painting The Maze –which shows Kurelek’s open decapitated skull– Kurelek depicts his childhood as anything but happy. In this scene from The Maze, Kurelek’s father is violently kicking him out the door into the cold and snow.

This haunting painting Lord That I May See  was easier to understand when I read in the Kurelek biography that William was in a psychiatric hospital  for four years  and tried to commit suicide twice. 

He credits his  conversion to Roman Catholicism with helping him deal with his mental problems. His new spiritual devotion led him to create many apocalyptic paintings warning about the end of the world, like This is the Nemesis abovewhich is the feature piece the Winnipeg Art Gallery is using to promote the Kurelek exhibit. Kurelek truly believed the end of the world was imminent and built a nuclear blast shelter in his basement during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Kurelek’s fervent faith led him to create 160 images showing the Passion of Christ as it is recorded in Matthew. As you can see Kurelek does not hesitate to show the gory reality of Christ’s torture and crucifixion. 

My visit to the William Kurelek exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery helped me learn so much more about William Kurelek, including the fact that he had a very dark side, and some troubling visions of life and the future of the world. If anything this makes me appreciate his happy, almost poetic paintings of the prairie even more. 

I’ll end this post with the painting of Kurelek’s I think I liked the best from the exhibit. It wasn’t terrifying like some of the paintings. It wasn’t all sweetness and light either. It really made you think. It’s called No Grass Grows on the Beaten Path. 

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Winnipeg- The Chicago of the North

Did you know that Winnipeg is sometimes called The Chicago of the North? My husband Dave was fond of saying that to people we met on our recent trip to Chicago. I checked his claim out when I got home and indeed it is true.  At the turn of the century Chicago and Winnipeg were actually rivals. They were both transportation hubs. 15 years prior to World War I Winnipeg was the fastest growing city in North America. Chicago architects came to Winnipeg to practice their craft and they designed many of the buildings in the Exchange District of downtown Winnipeg where we live. Their style also influenced local Winnipeg architects. The Maltese Cross Building at 66 King Street is a good example of a Chicago style structure in Winnipeg. 

It was designed by J.D. Atchison. He was born in Illinois and trained at the Chicago Art Institute before moving to Winnipeg in 1905. He lived and worked here till 1924 and designed more than a 100 buildings in Winnipeg. 

This is the Confederation Building designed by a Toronto architect Wilson Gray but he uses the Chicago style. Because there is so much intact Chicago style architecture in the Exchange District of Winnipeg where our condo is located, it has often served as the shooting location for movies set in Chicago, like Shall We Dance starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. 

I walk by this former Great West Life Building every day on my way to the gym and had no idea till now that it was designed in the Chicago style by a Chicago architect in 1911. 

Here is my son’s Canadian Mennonite University graduating class in 2007,  standing on the front steps of the main building on their Shaftesbury Blvd. campus. I’ve just found out the building was designed by none other than Chicago architect J.D. Atchison in 1921. 

This Union Bank Building designed by Chicago architect Atchison is right near my home. It’s nice to know that even though it may be a while before I get to visit Chicago again, I can walk out my front door and see buildings just like the ones in Chicago all around me in Winnipeg,  The Chicago of the North. 

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