The addition of an internal specialist at the Pembroke Regional Hospital has reduced the drive by six hours to three for some Ottawa Valley residents seeking specialized care.
One of the major hurdles for residents in the Ottawa Valley is the ability to attract doctors and specialized physicians.
More often than not, the lure of a large urban centre with all its resources and amenities is incredibly attractive for young medical professionals.
However, the Pembroke Regional Hospital (PRH) is very happy to welcome Dr. Pierre Zakko, an internal medicine specialist, to its team of professional staff. His addition to the Ottawa Valley’s largest hospital will significantly reduce the amount of travel for residents seeking the specialized care he provides.
An internal medicine physician, or internist, is a doctor that specializes in the internal organs, including the heart, kidney, liver and lungs. These doctors help manage diseases of these and other organs, and are acutely aware of how these organs interact. They specialize in adult medicine, and are specially trained to solve diagnostic problems, manage severe long-term illnesses, and help patients with multiple, complex chronic conditions.
For those living in such areas as Barry’s Bay, Deep River or Palmer Rapids among many of remote communities, his arrival means a six-hour round trip to an Ottawa hospital has been reduced by at least half, if not more.
Dr. Zakko who joined the hospital in mid-July was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria where he went to medical school and graduated in 2015.
In 2016, he came to Canada as a Syrian refugee and spent two years in Montreal completing his equivalency exams and working at the Clinique Le Plein Ciel in Saint-Laurent, Quebec where he worked with a variety of physicians specializing in both family medicine and other disciplines.
Dr. Zakko was fortunate to arrive in Canada and quickly enrolled in medical courses with the intent of potentially practicing in a rural community like Pembroke.
“I was lucky enough to be accepted to the internal medicine residency program at the University of Ottawa in 2018 where I spent the next four years,” Dr. Zakko said, adding that he finished in June of this year and relocated to Pembroke to start in a full time position at PRH as an internist.
It has always been his desire to specialize in internal medicine, and a positive residency experience at the University of Ottawa helped to reinforce this.
“I very much enjoyed my time during my internal medicine residency in Ottawa. It gave me a lot of experience in treating very complicated cases and the ability to look at the big picture when dealing with them.”
He completed his residency in February of this year and that experience reinforced his desire to relocate to Pembroke instead of pursuing a career in a major Canadian city. He completed an elective at PRH and his mind was made up.
“The people here – staff and patients – were so nice, welcoming, and easy to work with, plus I realized how underserved this area is so I thought I could make a difference by working here.”
The permanent establishment of a clinic with state-of-the-art resources was spearheaded by Dr. Kong C. Li, Chief of Internal Medicine and Critical Care at Pembroke Regional Hospital was a major factor in Dr. Zakko’s decision. It helps fill the gap of both internal medicine and the lack of family doctors for more than 25,000 residents who are without access to a family doctor.
The establishment of this clinic has greatly improved the process for discharging patients to home. This also helps to allow for follow up of our patients who have internal medicine issues but have no family doctor,” Dr. Li said.
Dr. Zakko is also working in the hospital’s heart function clinic and cardiology clinics.