Dr. Garland Jonker | Rural medicine physician gets his start as surgeon to tiny fish

Dr. Garland Jonker’s (MD ’09) personal motto is “Et si c’était à refaire, je referais ce chemin,” by Louis Aragon, meaning, “if I were to do it again, I would do it this way.”

Author

Natasha Chalmers, Cumming School of Medicine

Dr. Garland Jonker’s (MD ’09) personal motto is “Et si c’était à refaire, je referais ce chemin,” by Louis Aragon, meaning, “if I were to do it again, I would do it this way.”  A family man who counts his two daughters as his biggest achievement, Garland began his post-secondary education with a BSc in marine biology from Dalhousie University and continued with his MSc in aquatic ecology at the University of Calgary. Eventually he landed in the rural medicine program at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).

Hailing from Exshaw, Alberta, population 300, Garland pursued medicine after being inspired by a book about his town’s history, which was dedicated to “all those with the strength of character and courage to live their lives to full measure in our midst as friends and neighbours.”

Growing up, Garland enjoyed magic, bug catching, the circus and science. “I am also skilled at field suturing tiny freshwater fish, a talent left over from my research days. I greatly enjoy telling my patients that I honed my surgery skills on fish first!”

As part of the inaugural year of the CSM’s UCalgary Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (UCLIC), where third-year medical students are based in a family practice in a rural Alberta community, Garland has taken advantage of almost every rural learning opportunity that has been offered at the CSM.  He now practices family and hospitalist medicine in Lethbridge, and “supports all aspects of women’s and men’s health, pediatrics, LGBTQ specific concerns, and fosters individual empowerment in achieving optimal health” in his practice. Garland is also a clinical lecturer for the UCLIC and Rural Alberta South (RAS) programs at the CSM, and was a key part of developing this model of medical training in Alberta.

Part of Garland’s collaboration with UCLIC, included evolving the model to fit larger urban centres, like Lethbridge.  Together with Dr. Wes Jackson (MD ’82), he laid the groundwork and now hosts two UCLIC clerks every year.  Garland shares that Dr. Jackson, along with Dr. Doug Myhre, Associate Dean of Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives (DLRI), were important influences on how he integrates practice with teaching in his medical career.  He also gives credit to the group of Sundre doctors with whom he worked during his clerkship, Dr. Hal Irvine (MD ’77), Dr. Caroline Rowntree (MD ’87), Dr. Michelle Warren, Dr.’s Eugene and Carla Landsbergen and Dr. Glenn Kowalsky. “I am proud to say I practice exactly like a Dr Irvtreenbergalsky!”

Describing himself as “a generalist at work and play”, Garland enjoys climbing, biking, swimming, running and skiing, and even designed and sewed his own leather shoulder bag when he graduated from residency.

His energy and humour is passed down to his daughters, who keep Garland and his wife entertained with their antics, most recently playing complicated word games.  He describes his girls as his “creative outlet”, and says they are “hands down, the crowning achievement of anything I’ve done in my life.”  There is no doubt that there are many accomplishments to come, as Garland is a true ambassador for DLRI heading into the next 50 years.

Tidbits from Garland:

What do you enjoy most about working at the CSM?
Maintaining contact with my mentors, colleagues and upcoming generations of medical practitioners. This overlap maintains my medical knowledge and skills, the benefit which of course transfers to my patients.

What does it mean to you that we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary?
Innovation and longevity!

Where do you see the CSM in the next 50 years?
I envision the CSM will continue at the forefront of medical training, setting international standards for medical training through innovative programming.

Additional fun facts?
I have only ever met one other Garland in my life. I was 25, and I’m first generation Dutch Canadian. She was 12 and Japanese. Go figure.