“It has definitely been tough and I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices,” said Chantal Barry. “But I trust I have a mission in life and part of that is being in service for others . . . being a steward for our people.”
On June 4, Barry convocated from the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, with her medical degree.
Barry and husband Tyler, son Toryn (three) and 20-month old daughter Ena live in Calgary where Barry recently began a family medicine residency at the city’s university.
Barry chose family medicine because it offers not only a variety in fields and chances in the emergency department and surgical, but longevity.
“There’s also the continuity of care. I can see mothers in prenatal care and then I can deliver the baby, then I can see the baby, watch them grow up and then deliver their babies,” Barry said.
Barry hoped to practice medicine in a rural clinic, but her husband’s computer training means living closer to a centre. To meet both their needs, Barry said they’ll likely purchase land on the outskirts of the city so she can practice rurally while he commutes to work. She plans to work for a couple years before she and a fellow physician open a rural clinic and offer general practitioner services.
“Aboriginal people are everywhere, so I don’t only have to be in a rural setting,” she said.
Barry, who is Métis from Saskatoon, earned a science degree from the University of Saskatchewan and a master’s degree from the University of British Columbia. In 2005, she chose the U of A for medicine because of the university’s reputation and its proximity to Saskatoon.
Barry had both her children while attending medical school. She said the university was understanding of her situation and always accommodating.
Juggling education and family life has presented challenges, said Barry, who admitted having to give up friends, personal time, and a social life in order to focus on her priorities.
“My highest priority was my children. My next priority was my education,” Barry said. “Being able to balance the two, my kids had to give up a lot because I was gone a lot at night quite a bit for the training.”
Barry sees herself as a role model, for other Aboriginal people, who may want to pursue health as a career, and also as an ambassador for an Aboriginal approach to medicine.
“The majority of physicians are not Aboriginal, so to bring an understanding of some cultural values to non-Aboriginal physicians is another way I can contribute,” she said.
She also noted that where her patients are open to it, she’ll try a more holistic approach to her medicine, discussing traditional ways, spiritual growth and discovering their cultural roots. Sweats and ceremonies for healing are ways to reduce stress in people’s lives and to control high blood pressure.
“I knew before I had kids if I was meant to be in medicine it would happen. Everything went very smoothly. I worked hard at it and I always trusted that if this is what God wanted for me, I would get through it. I would have the strength I need every day,” she said.
Barry and her husband plan to add two more children to their family.