“I love going to work” – Dream job becomes reality for CFB Suffield Base Surgeon

Article / April 1, 2019 / Project number: w-ar-13-03-21-medical-officer

By Natalie Finnemore, Canadian Forces Base Suffield Public Affairs

Ralston, Alberta — One sleepless night during a tour in Afghanistan became the turning point Captain Meghan Joiner needed to make an unfulfilled childhood dream become a reality.

Currently Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield’s Base Surgeon, she is the head of medical services at the base.

“In Afghanistan, I spent a lot of time at the Role 3 Medical Unit. I talked to a lot of doctors, saw how they worked, and also saw how vulnerable they were and that they were just normal people.”

Capt Joiner said she felt inspired to become a medical doctor after being mentored by her Medical Officer colleagues while deployed to Afghanistan as a Health Care Administrator in 2007 and 2008. As she talked with the doctors one-on-one and got to see how they delivered patient care in the field, the career became much less intimating and more attainable. 

From that point forward, she knew becoming a doctor was something she absolutely had to do.

“I wanted to be a doctor since I was a child because my grandfather was a doctor. It’s always been part of who I am. I always want to help people.”

Influenced by grandfathers: one a doctor, the other a Chief Warrant Officer

Her maternal grandfather was a medical doctor and her paternal grandfather was a Chief Warrant Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) during the Second World War. For her, becoming a doctor in the CAF was the best mix of both sides of her family heritage.  

It took several years of applying to, and later attending, medical school before this dream finally came to fruition. 

Role allows her to work with British military and Canadian defence research scientists.

Capt Joiner’s career in the medical field has opened doors to many exciting roles that she said she never imagined existed. This includes her current role as Base Surgeon at CFB Suffield, which gives her the unique opportunity to work alongside the British military and Canadian defence research scientists.

“Suffield is pretty unique. The exciting part would be to look at what Defence Research and Development Canada is doing, to be a part of their work and their research. Some of these scientists are the most prominent in their field in Canada; it’s a privilege to work with them and alongside them.”

She enjoys working side-by-side in the same clinic as her British Army Medical Corps colleagues, something that is not happening anywhere else in Canada. CFB Suffield is the only military base in the country where a British Army unit is co-located at a Canadian Forces Base year-round.

She is responsible for the medical care of all CAF members at CFB Suffield, and it is an honour that she doesn’t take lightly because she values the relationship she has with her patients.

“You open up and say things to your doctor that maybe you wouldn’t say to anyone else in the world. It’s a privilege just to learn those things about people and be able to help,” said Capt Joiner.

What she finds most rewarding about the work is the sense of accomplishment that comes from the seemingly ordinary things she does every day.

“At the end of the day, you always feel like you’ve done something. You’ve made somebody’s life better,” she said. “I can’t change the world but I can change something in individual people’s lives, even something as simple as an antibiotic for someone’s sore throat. Those little things actually help people.”

There is a genuine feeling of enjoyment and personal satisfaction she gets from helping others, she notes. She knew she made the right decision to pursue her medical career because her work days never actually feel like work.

‘Never actually feels like work’

“I love going to work. Right now I work 13-hour days and I look forward to my evening clinic. It’s a lot of work and a lot of time, but it doesn’t feel like work.”

Her career in the CAF has taken her through several career changes within the medical field, including tasks that are unlike anything she would get to experience in another similar civilian job, such as her deployment to Haiti in 2010 with the Disaster Assistance Response Team in humanitarian support following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake. 

“It’s the opportunity to be a part of something that’s really amazing that no other Canadians can be a part of, from the disaster in Haiti to sitting around the table with the Minister of National Defence of a foreign country.”

Capt Joiner says that the CAF is a great career opportunity for young women, because of the rewarding experiences and mentorship she has received throughout her military service.

“You will surprise yourself, you are capable of a lot more than you think you are. Decide on something and just do it, be it boot camp or a deployment or medical school.”

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