Dr. Kerri Best always knew she wanted to be
a family doctor and it was a childhood goal
from which she never waivered.
For Dr. Kerri Best, her devotion to her children and husband, made the decision to focus on family medicine an easy one. “I always knew I wanted to be a family doctor,” she says. “It was a childhood goal and I never veered from it.”
However, her interest in teaching proper breastfeeding education to colleagues and other women is a passion that stemmed from her own experiences as a mother. “I realized just how poorly educated we are about breastfeeding when I had my daughter,” she explains. “Even I felt lost and I’m a full-fledged physician!”
Kerri knew she wasn’t alone in her despair. “There’s a lack of resources available to women,” she says, before adding that she could only imagine how other mothers – who weren’t a part of the medical world – were feeling about it.
Determined to find a way to “teach and help patients prepare for breastfeeding prior to the birth,” Kerri spent her spare time taking extra courses. “I wanted to take my experience and help others,” she explains.
Now, as part of the Medical Associates of Port Perry, Kerri works as a family physician while living out her dream of specializing in women’s health issues through teaching breastfeeding education and doing routine lactation assessments at the hospital.
In addition to her doctor duties, including working in the clinic and on urgent care and doing in-patient care and surgical assistance at the hospital, Kerri also teaches medical students by allowing them to shadow her in her practice. “It’s nice to give back and be a teacher for once,” she says, “especially after being a student for so long.”
Kerri was granted her first opportunity to work in medicine in grade 13. For her co-op program she was able to work in the hospital doing obstetrics, which is a practice that focuses on caring for women and their babies during pregnancy.
But, she soon realized it wasn’t the right fit for her, explaining that when working in obstetrics, “You are missing a huge part of the life cycle. You deliver a baby and then you might never see that child grow up.”
She decided that working as a family doctor was more appropriate for her. “A family practitioner allowed me to do everything, to see it all, to be a part of my patient’s lives for the whole journey,” she explains. “And I enjoy the variety that comes from having all types of people in my practice,” she adds, referring to her treatment of men, women and children.
Kerri began her medical training at McMaster University and she completed her ‘rural residency’ program (work placement in hospital/clinic) out of the University of Toronto. While her first year of residency was spent rotating among Toronto’s hospitals, she decided to come to Port Perry, like many of the other ‘Docs,’ for her second year of residency.
Even though she “absolutely loved it in Port Perry” she moved to Mount Albert to practice and be with her husband who worked as a paramedic in the area. In hopes of returning one day, she decided to continue to work in emergency in the hospital as a way of staying “linked to Port Perry.”
But Kerri says she “always missed being in Port Perry.” After her daughter was born, they decided to move back and “there was no looking back!” she assures.
The family settled in Port Perry, but with the birth of her son, practicing in emergency became too hard. “I felt like I had to be ‘supermom,’” she explains. “It was difficult but I realized as much as my career as a doctor has its place, it’s not most important.”
Kerri decided, especially after witnessing how valuable life is through her work, family needed to come first. She wanted to be more involved in her children’s lives and so she decided to dedicate some of her time to establishing “a presence in their school,” through volunteering in the classroom, assisting teachers and reading to students.
Aside from working in the classroom, Kerri is also secretary of the parent council at S. A. Cawker School and she is heavily involved in developing a program called Mothers in Touch, which happens to run in many communities and branches off according to school. “The hardest part is finding the time, but I’m determined!” she insists.
Mothers in Touch, she explains, “Allows moms to come together and pray for their kids.” Each meeting is based around a different focus, such as “school bullying” or “purity” and the women will gather together while Kerri leads them in prayer. “It provides an extra cushion for doing all you can for your kids’ safety,” she says.
She also devotes her spare time to nurturing her love for photography and scrapbooking. “Photography is like my escape,” she says. “I can escape from whatever’s in my head, especially because my patients are always on my mind.”
Kerri says, in times of struggle, she is lucky to be able to lean on her husband for support. “He understands the ups and downs in medicine,” she explains, referring to his job as a paramedic.
“He understands when I come home and can’t shut my brain off.” His encouragement, along with her adoration for photography, allows Kerri to stay afloat when the emotional burdens of being a doctor become overwhelming.
As part of her motto to “embrace life,” Kerri uses her camera to explore and chronicle the things that make her feel content. Her subject of choice? “I like to find beauty in the simple things,” she notes, while expressing her delight for photographing nature and her family.
“Scrapbooking became a way for me to integrate the two and it allows me to document my life,” she explains. “You realize how precious life is and you have to document those special moments.”
Kerri describes herself as a very sentimental person and she believes this quality is the reason for her devotion to practicing family medicine.
Commenting on her relationships with her patients, she says “You become a part of the journey with them. They’re giving me a gift as I’m helping them along. It’s a privilege to be privy to what they tell you and you can’t get that anywhere else.” She adds, “It’s a big responsibility, but so worth it.”
After losing her sister at a young age, Kerri says she has a “depth of sympathy that makes her more emotionally involved with her patients.” “When they cry, I cry. When they’re in pain, I’m in pain. When they’re happy, I’m ecstatic!” she says.
This strong connection to her patients, as well as the desire and willingness to help them “throughout the journey” has led Kerri to make herself as available to her patients as possible. She designed and manages her own website and encourages her patients to keep in touch with her through email.
She also posts regular health updates to her website to keep her patients aware of any new medical research that may be relevant to them. “It’s an extra level of me trying to be there – even if it’s not physically,” she explains. “It’s helpful to my patients and myself, especially with time and getting information out quickly to a large group of people.”
Kerri says sometimes she will even use the website as a means to catch up with or keep in touch with her patients. “If a patient is going through a hard time, they just need a reassuring word,” she says. “All it takes is one sentence to tide over or reassure someone and it’s because I have that trust with my patients.”
Another relationship built on trust that Kerri greatly depends on is the team of ‘Docs’ she works with everyday. “It’s amazing to find a group of strong-minded people with different personalities that gel so beautifully,” she says. “I know it’s hard to find and I think a part of it is the huge support we get from the community.” She smiles before adding, “It’s unlike anywhere else.”
By Christina Coughlin
Focus on Scugog