A Doctor in the West
Gene Olson was Reference Librarian at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, University of Alberta, Edmonton.
A Doctor in the West continues the light-hearted story of physicians Morris and Janet Gibson begun in Morris’s earlier One Man’s Medicine (Collins, 1981). Like the first book, this latest offering is a gossipy, easy-to-read aggregate of events and observations chosen from the experiences of the Gibsons on both sides of the Atlantic.
The collected memories that fill the book’s 37 untitled chapters illustrate the author’s perceptions of his profession, his patients, his two countries, the human condition in general, and the prairie experience in general. Always the physician, Gibson is alert to the interesting or exceptional case and prepared to comment on its significance.
The initial chapters outline the Gibsons’ life as a physician team in Hull prior to their decision to immigrate to North America. Disappointment with the attitudes and behaviour of many of their patients following the post-war imposition of socialized medicine in the UK prompted their move to someplace where the “inmates do not run the asylum” (N.B.: Gibson does not use this phrase, but this reviewer considers it an apt description of the author’s viewpoint). Having decided to leave behind their medical practise, hearth and home, and cultural underpinnings, the family had to pick a spot to move “to.” An out-of-date scrap of information brought them the name of a small town in Western Canada that had advertised for a local doctor — Okotoks.
The final chapters record the Gibson family’s heart-warming and often hilarious efforts in establishing themselves as doctors, neighbours, and citizens in a small Alberta town that didn’t know they were coming. Local characters, and Gibson’s medical (and veterinary!) successes and tragedies are recounted through the eyes of the worldly-wise yet naive immigrants. Gibson’s impressions enlarge one’s view of rural Canadians, investing them with values a native-born citizen might not recognize.
According to the book jacket, the now retired Gibson has had 23 years of medical practice in Canada as a country doctor and as professor and head of the Division of Family Medicine at the University of Calgary. The scope of this book which doesn’t touch the latter part of his career suggests that there may be yet another volume to the life and times of Morris Gibson, family doctor.