Physician Recruitment: The “long game”

Sault Area Hospital

City Council Monday night received a detailed report on physician recruitment to the Sault and Algoma District.

Carrie Stewart, Manager of Physician Recruitment and Retention was joined in the presentation of the report by Sault Area Hospital (SAH) Chief of Staff Dr. John Heintzman.

The Physician Recruitment Program launched in 2002. To date, 212 physicians have been successfully recruited, the latest just in the past week. Fifty-seven of those were family physicians.

In the same time frame, 144 physicians have departed practicing medicine in the Sault, with nearly half (67) retiring. Another 57 left the city to practice elsewhere.

Since the program began, the average rate of retention stands at 80 per cent. Many stay for a long term term, says Stewart and the percentage is highest if the recruit has received part of their education in Sault Ste. Marie.

Marketing and advertising and attending conferences or doctor job fairs figure prominently in recruitment strategy. Stewart lists community supports and engagement, developing and maintaining great practice models, incentives, community site visits, bursary development and a summer studentship program as other key components.

“A combination of all these are needed to be successful,” she says.

Retention strategies include incentives, wellness/retention events, settlement support for the recruit’s entire family, mentorship programs and NOSM faculty positions.

The Recruitment and Retention Program operates on an annual budget of $300,000.

The City contributes $140,000, SAH $80,000 and the Group Health Centre contributes $65,000. 

Two items account for most of the program’s budget: Salaries and benefits for 1.5 staff and allowance for physician relocation.

Stewart, in her 12th year in the program, says it’s important to recruit internationally as well as nationally, and said a recent recruiting trip to Dublin, Ireland is an example. 

In Dublin, she was able to meet with medical students attending the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland to promote Sault Ste. Marie and its career opportunities. She has three recruiting trips on her agenda for this year.

Stewart says physician recruitment is often referred to as playing the long game.

“It takes a minimum of six years upon entering medical school to be practice ready,” says Stewart. “Physician recruitment is personalized (you’re recruiting) the physician and their family. I have known our latest recruit for the past eight years.”

Ward 3 Councillor Angela Caputo asked Stewart if the program targets and follows Sault Ste. Marie med students. 

“Are you aware of all of the people going to medical school from Sault Ste. Marie? 

“We’re one of the unique communities that do keep track of students that we know of from Algoma District and where they are in their training. We (use) social media, try to get contact information, invite them to our recruitment-retention events.”

Data is collected by word of mouth, from other medical students and staff, added Stewart.

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine continues to play a major role in recruiting efforts. Stewart says there are 35 medical learners in the community at any one time and 135 local physicians are NOSM faculty.

NOSM also offers a unique summer studentship experience for first- and second-year students from Sault Ste. Marie.


  • Ron Jokelainen

    Ron has returned to writing and reporting after 27 years with Ontario Lottery & Gaming. He began as a staff writer with OLG in 1994 before moving to Sports Marketing in 1997. He retired as a Senior sports analyst in 2021. Prior to OLG, Ron worked in radio and print journalism in the Sault and Simcoe. Folks may remember Ron "Williams" with CFYN-CHAS in the early 90s A graduate of Windsor's St. Clair College Journalism program, Ron lists drumming, gardening and walking among his favourite hobbies.

    View all posts

One thought on “Physician Recruitment: The “long game”

  1. That’s the problem with the one horse town everything is a game played by the incompetent incapable ninnies at the Ivory tower. What a huge mess that is only getting bigger by the day as the out of touch government continues to bring in millions more immigrants when there isn’t the infrastructure to even support the people that were already here before they started this nonsense, no housing, no jobs, and a huge drain on the already heavily overloaded, teetering on broke system. Morons, the lot of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *