Creating Vasculitis Awareness in a Remote Corner of Ontario

A personal and professional mission for Dr. Michael Fernando and his wife, Patti Kemp.

Michael Fernando, MD, is a family practice and emergency physician who lives and practices medicine in rural southwestern Ontario, Canada.

Following medical school in the UK (Bart’s and the London School of Medicine), Dr. Fernando trained in family medicine near Fort St. John, a remote part of British Columbia, where he and his wife, Patti Kemp, lived for two years. Together with Patti, who was diagnosed with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA, formerly Wegener’s) more than 20 years ago, Dr. Fernando is active in creating awareness of vasculitis in rural Canada.

“Patti has always been an inspiration to me, as she is so positive about her disease and has been an active advocate for awareness about her disease,” he says. Patti and her family are active in the Vasculitis Foundation and with the Canadian vasculitis organization.

In April, Dr. Fernando spoke about vasculitis at the 2019 Rural and Remote Medicine Course, an annual event presented by the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada, for doctors who practice in rural and remote areas of Canada.

“Most attendees are family practitioners or emergency physicians,” he says. “Specialists are rare, so giving this talk was a chance for me to educate these doctors about the broad aspects of vasculitis, how to diagnose it and when to refer.”

For Patti’s part, giving birth to their daughter, Sinead, in remote Fort St. John, gave her an opportunity to educate the doctors at the hospital there about what to watch out for with her condition. “She did a great job during the pregnancy and birth, but I could sense the relief from the doctors after everything had turned out well,” Dr. Fernando says.

According to Dr. Fernando, this experience made him realize that rare diseases do occur in rural and remote locations, and that it’s important for doctors in these areas to have an awareness about them, especially when it comes to diagnosing patients.

Author: John Fries
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 VF newsletter.