Dr. Bennett-Boutilier with her husband, Stewart Boutilier, and their children, Annabella and Benjamin. (Submitted photo)

Get to know Port Alice’s new doctors

Garneau-Bégin and his colleague Dr. Bennett-Boutilier wanted a rural practice in Port Alice.

Have you met Port Alice’s new doctors yet?

Dr. Kevin Garneau-Bégin

Garneau-Bégin grew up in a French-Canadian family in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He moved to Alberta for his last year of high school where he learned English.

He studied medicine at McGill University from 2007 to 2011.

He completed his residency in family practice in Terrace, B.C. from 2011 to 2013.

Garneau-Bégin worked for the Canadian Armed Forces full-time from 2013 to 2020 as a general duty medical officer in a role as a primary care provider for Canadian soldiers.

After completing his training to become a flight surgeon—which is a medical doctor taking care of aircrew personnel—he was posted to Comox, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and then Germany.

He is still enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces in the Primary Reserve Force.

Garneau-Bégin deployed to Kuwait and Iraq as part of OPERATION IMPACT in 2017, which he considers the highlight of his military career.

He says, “Working in an austere environment (in the desert for many months) along with military colleagues from other NATO nations was an enriching personal experience.”

Garneau-Bégin is in a long distance relationship with his partner, Marton Andrassy, a Hungarian who works for the European Parliament in Brussels.

Luckily, Andrassy has the flexibility of working remotely.

They intend to regularly travel back and forth between Vancouver Island and Europe.

They do not have children, but they have a cat and a dog.

Garneau-Bégin and his colleague Dr. Bennett-Boutilier, also from the military, have both worked on the North Island as locum physicians.

They were interested in sharing a rural practice when the position became available in Port Alice.

“Dr. KGB,” as he is sometimes referred to, considers working at a health centre built right on the waterfront as a big plus for being here.

The Port Alice Health Centre, he emphasizes, “has probably the vest views of all the medical clinics in Canada.” He also fell in love with the picturesque natural beauty of Quatsino Sound.

He ended up buying a house in Old Quatsino, along with a boat for the commute home.

He also has a place to stay in Port Alice during the work week.

Port Alice is a good fit for him because he is an avid outdoorsman.

His passion is trail running. He also loves kayaking, fishing and camping.

He has found that the people of Port Alice have been very welcoming.

He says that he is impressed by the hospitality and friendliness of everyone he’s met, and intends to stay here for many years to come.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Canada, Garneau-Bégin says that the number of appointments in Port Alice has so far has been relatively stable.

Approximately 90 per cent of patient encounters have been replaced by virtual health visits through telephone or videoconferencing calls.

When physical examinations are necessary, everyone takes the necessary precautions.

Garneau-Bégin also works at the Port Hardy or Port McNeill hospitals to maintain his emergency medicine skills.

Dr. Nicole Bennett-Boutilier

Bennett-Boutilier was born in Vanderhoof BC and grew up in Kamloops. She acquired her nursing degree at University College of the Cariboo (now Thompson River University) in 1998, and her specialty degree at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in 2000. She acquired her medical degree at Northern Ontario School of Medicine in 2009, doing her residency at UBC.

In the Canadian Armed Forces, she served as a Specialty Nursing Officer, then as a General Medical Duty Officer. She deployed to Afghanistan for OPERATION ATHENA in 2005 and then to Libya for OPERATION LOBE in 2013. She served an OUTCAN posting in Germany from 2015-2018, where she was the Officer Commanding and Chief of Medicine of the unit that provided health care oversight for all Canadian Forces members and their families in NATO postings throughout Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. She also oversaw the Air Evac Liaison Team that provided support to any Canadian casualties transiting through Europe. Her last posting was as the 19 Wing Surgeon (Chief of Medicine) at 19 Wing in Comox from 2018-2019.

A highlight of her military career was being posted on Canada’s east and west coasts, for what she calls “working in the sky” as a flight nurse with Search and Rescue, and later as a flight surgeon. From the sky she went on to work in the depths of the ocean with the Navy as a hyperbaric/dive officer. She was even required to do some dive training herself. She states, “Working for the military was certainly never dull.”

Bennett-Boutilier’s home base is the Comox Valley, but she has recently purchased a house in Port Alice. She has been married to Stewart Boutilier since 2006. He is retired from the military after 20 years and has been a stay-at-home dad since 2009. They have two children: Annabella, 12, and Benjamin 10. They have two dogs, a Bordie Collie/Lab Mix named Zorro and a little Shih Tzu/Sheltie Mix named JoJo who sometime travel with Dr. Bennett-Boutilier to Port Alice. They also have two cats, Carl and Earl Grey, two parakeets, Olaf and Sky, and a gecko named Gary.

She goes by both her hyphenated names “just to keep it complicated!” She is, however, completely flexible with what her patients call her. Her name often gets shortened to “Dr Nicole” or “Doc B-B” quite quickly.

Bennett-Boutilier was familiar with the North Island on account of her casual work in Port McNeill over the last 10 years. When the position in Port Alice came up, the timing was right given her retirement from the CAF in 2019. Port Alice appealed to her because “it is a peaceful and beautiful place to be.” She adds, “I really enjoy the community, and how folks in Port Alice live as one with the nature of the North Island.” She is looking forward to working alongside Dr. Garneau-Bégin, whom she worked with in Germany, “as we both have a passion for rural medicine and similar styles of family medicine practice.”

With most appointments during the pandemic being conducted by telephone, she urges people “to utilize the urgent care provision in the health center with discretion, but…should not delay if they need urgent medical assistance.” She is not aware of any Covid-19 cases in Port Alice at this time.

– Debra Lynn article

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Dr. Kevin Garneau-Bégin (right) with his partner, Marton Andrassy, (left). (Submitted photo)

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