ESTEVAN — After close to 40 years of serving her patients in Estevan, Dr. Allison Christie has announced that she has retired as of March 10.
In an interview with the Mercury, she said, at age 75, it was time for her to slow down and eventually be closer to her family, all of which are in Scotland.
It took her a while to make a decision and retire after working in Estevan, mostly at St. Joseph’s Hospital, since October 1983.
"My family is all back in the U.K., and I thought, well, maybe I should go stay with my family for a while," Christie said. "It's hard to leave because I've been here a long time. But I decided it was time."
Christie came to Canada in August 1982, after spotting an ad posted by a doctor from Gravelbourg in a newspaper in Glasgow.
"He always liked to get locums in the summer from Glasgow. And I thought, 'Oh, that's a good idea, maybe I should just try to travel and work at the same time.' And then I really enjoyed my work there," Christie recalled.
Before coming to Canada, she worked in London for two years, and knew first-hand that big-city work and life weren't her things. When she came to Saskatchewan, it was "so peaceful and quiet," that she decided to stay. The next 40 years of her life she dedicated to rural Saskatchewan healthcare.
She also got calls from Melville, Grenfell, Rose Valley and Nipawin, but eventually, she ended up signing a contract in Estevan.
"They were very short on doctors here, so I came down and Dr. Cheah, and he gave me my job in Estevan. I signed a contract for two years and stayed a bit longer," Christie recalled, laughing.
There was a brief break in her work in Estevan in 1997 when she went to Alberta and then to the U.S., but she liked Estevan better and ended up coming back in 1999.
"I really preferred Estevan, so I came back," Christie shared.
She said working in a smaller community was a benefit for her on many fronts.
"The people were very, very, very friendly. We seemed to have a lot in common. The job was good. It was interesting, because not only did you do general practice, but you had some hospital responsibilities as well, which is satisfying. Because we're two hours away from Regina, that means patients need a little bit more care than just general practice."
While she enjoyed the all-around job, Christie decided to leave the hospital in 2019 and has been working in the office since then until retirement.
"I've enjoyed working with the other docs in the office and just doing that," Christie said.
Throughout her career in Estevan, one way or the other, she would get to meet almost every family.
"I think I knew everybody in Estevan," Christie said with a laugh. "I've known the same families for three generations probably, so I'd say I know at least half of [the people in Estevan] at one time or another either in the emergency room or the office in the hospital."
Work took up most of her time, but Christie has always had a passion for music and was a regular guest at the Estevan Arts Council concert series and other concerts coming to town. She's been to Johnny Reid's performances in Estevan twice - once last year, and once during an earlier visit.
"I love music. I play the piano very badly," Christie said with a laugh. "When I came to Canada, I hated country western, I hated it. All of a sudden, I got it in the 90s, I suddenly loved it … I got to know the songs, life stories and I started enjoying country music. And I've always loved classical music as well. But I did try take some CDs home to one of my nephews. He didn't like country western at all. It was Garth Brooks, he was Regina one time and it was just so good."
She said even though it was time to make the decision she made, it wasn't an easy one.
"People around have always been friendly," and she sincerely enjoyed the country she made her home for four decades.
"I'm still sad, I'm still kind of regretful but I feel it's the right choice," Christie said. "I've always enjoyed working … I loved working but a time comes when you have to say no, this is it."
She added that Tommy Douglas, Saskatchewan premier from 1944-61, was her hero as his government introduced the continent's first single-payer, universal healthcare program.
"I'm proud to say that he lived only 50 miles away in Weyburn," she said.
While she eventually plans on going to the U.K. to be with her family, Christie said she will be around for some time. She still has property in the area and probably will come to visit later.
She plans on keeping the same phone number for about a year as well, she added.