News at Medicine - November 2009 - Family Physician of the Year Award

Family Physician of the Year Award
November 24, 2009
Dr. Paul Bonisteel of New Harbour, NL, was presented with the Family Physician of the Year Award at the Family Medicine Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter Awards dinner Sept 24, held in St. John’s. Award recipients from each province were announced at the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s Family Medicine Forum in Calgary on October 31, 2009.
Dr. Bonisteel is credited as being a physician who “epitomizes the principles of family medicine,” and as an incredible advocate for both the profession and his patients.

Born in Toronto, Ontario, he graduated from the University of Ottawa in 1983 and moved to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1985 after obtaining his certification in family medicine. He now practices at the New Harbour Medical Clinic where he divides his time between the Newhook Community Health Centre and Carbonear General Hospital.

From 1986 to 1991, Dr. Bonisteel was an assistant professor of Family Medicine at Memorial University and later the acting chair of continuing medical education for the university. During the 50th anniversary celebrations of The College of Family Physicians of Canada in 2004, he chaired the Annual Scientific Assembly. Since 2005, he has been a clinical preceptor with Memorial University, providing guidance to medical students as well as family practice residents.

In accepting the award, Dr. Bonisteel reflected that the “single greatest life-changing move I made was to come to Newfoundland, to leave the navel gazing claustrophobic, centre-of-the-universe attitude of Toronto and be welcomed by warm friendly and generous people. Here I got a fresh perspective on the country and the world and myself.”

Dr. Bob Miller, chair of the Discipline of Medicine, presented the Family Physician of the Year Award to Dr. Paul Bonisteel. Dr. Dr. Sarah Kredentser, right, is past president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Dr. Bonisteel credited psychologist Dr. George Hurley’s teaching as greatly affecting his professional and personal life. “His course on interviewing skills was much more than the mechanics of such. The course caused one to look deeply into the minds and hearts of both the interviewee and the interviewer…. For any of you who’ve not read George’s message In Danger of Growing I commend it to your reading pleasure.”

As a city boy, used to the anonymity of the urban landscape, Dr. Bonisteel said that dealing with the “goldfish bowl” of rural life and practice was a major milestone. “Two colleagues, Dr. Margot Walker and nurse Linda Strickland, helped me with this during my time in Burin. They modeled an approach that was as simple as it was easy – be yourself in both your personal and professional life.”

Dr. Bonisteel said he had the privilege of working with four masters of the essentials of “mutual positive regard,” all named John – John Forster, John Ross, John Lewis and John Sheldon. “To this day, when faced with a surprise encounter, I ask myself, ‘now what would John do?’”

Dr. Bonisteel said that one of the medical interventions in which he takes most pride takes place on a sports field in Blaketown. “In 2006 my wife Mary and I started a regional soccer program for kids in Kinderstart to Grade 6. We’ve just finished our fourth season and registered 130-177 children each summer from as far away as Southern Harbour on the isthmus and Heart’s Delight in Trinity south.”

Known to be a devoted family man, Paul is married to Mary Harris, with whom he shares three children, Simon, Erin, and Isaac. An avid banjo-player, Paul loves 17th Century Newfoundland and Labrador history. His hobbies include soccer and hockey as well as hiking and camping.

The Bonisteel family (from left): Erin, Isaac, Paul, Simon and Mary Harris.