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Henderson: a cut above the rest


Having physicians or surgeons come from an upbringing in the Valley is a remarkable thing. Dr. Bryce Henderson grew up on a family farm in the community and worked his way from the oil fields and farm to the operating room.
“I often wondered how I got into becoming an orthopedic surgeon, and all throughout my high school years there were some people who were already focused and set on their life goal,” said Central Alberta Orthopedics Surgeon Dr. Bryce Henderson MD, FRCS(C). “For me, I knew that I wanted to leave the Valley and explore my options. I liked living there, had great friends, excellent childhood and family there, but I couldn’t see myself there long term. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing, but I knew deep down that once I left my hometown, I likely wouldn’t be coming back.
“In 1990 I graduated from Swan Valley Regional Secondary School (SVRSS) and went to the University of Manitoba. Every spring I would go back come back to help my dad seed on the farm and then I would and work on the oil rigs in the summer. In the fall, I would return to the Valley to help my dad harvest and then back to university.
“So I had a uncle who was originally from Birch River, who became a physician who went to Los Angeles. This uncle wound up owning and running an actual HMO in the American system. He is where I originally got the inspiration to become a physician,” said Henderson. “I earned my degree in Science and from there it was a lot of hard work to get into medical school. Once I got into medical school, I couldn’t work on the oil rigs anymore because the summer holiday was too short and it wasn’t logical to do that while being in such an intensive program.”
Henderson completed his Bachelor of Science at the University of Manitoba in 1995 and then his Doctor of Medicine in 1999. He knew he wanted more out of his medical career and headed to Ontario for a new venture.
“My original plan was to become a family doctor and come back to work in Thompson or Brandon, but it just didn’t seem to fit,” said Henderson. “This led me to focusing on becoming a surgeon and from there into orthopedics. I went to Ottawa for five years for Orthopaedic Surgery Residency at the University of Ottawa. While in residency, I did a two year Hip and Knee Arthroplasty Fellowship in Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. After that, I spent two more years doing a Foot and Ankle Fellowship at Toronto Western Hospital.
“That was a long road and I was ready to start working. I wound up working in Mississauga, Ontario, and I didn’t like the commute and traffic. Plus my parents were getting older and needed more help on the farm, so I had to relocate to a bigger place that my parents could drive to and where there are fewer people. Ideally it had to be a large enough community that could sustain a busy practice, but I knew I didn’t want to be in a large city setting.
“I didn’t want to live in Calgary, but being close to the hospital for surgery would be ideal, so I thought of Red Deer, because I used to work here back in my oil rig days,” said Henderson. “So this was perfect for it was big enough to have a practice, has great recreational amenities nearby, and it’s close to city centers. My family and I have been here now since 2006.”
Henderson was fortunate to gain the medical training and experience he did at some very prominent hospitals such as Mount Sinai. For his outstanding efforts while in residency, he became Chief Resident in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery in Ottawa. All of his experiences have sculpted him to be the surgeon he is.
“What we don’t realize in Canada, that is in some of the hospitals I did my fellowships and residency in, there are some world-class physicians and surgeons,” said Henderson. “To work with them, for them and occasionally do work on them, is beyond valuable. I gained world-class experience from each and every one of them and that has aided me in my work throughout my course as a surgeon.
“I definitely feel that when I was done training and ready to work, that because of the physicians and surgeons I had worked under and for, I was more than prepared for what was ahead. Alberta is very busy and because of that training I received, I was able to hit the ground full speed and have done well because of it. To have received the level of training I had, has been a huge asset to my skills and abilities as a surgeon.”
Henderson enjoys his line of work and finds it a very satisfying career. It’s a busy lifestyle being a surgeon, but giving people the gift of mobility back is a reward that makes it worth it.
“I like operating and in order to be a surgeon, you have to physically enjoy operating,” said Henderson. “Some people can’t stand it, don’t like opening people up and find it too stressful. It doesn’t bother me at all, in fact I rather enjoy it because I like anatomy and be able to reconstruct things. Orthopedics is nice because with the advancing technology, we can offer people almost immaculate recovery and improvements in their life. People can literally be heading towards a state of disabled and after surgery, literally be walking. That is really spectacular to me and is what I enjoy the most.”
Many of us can only assume what the life of a physician or surgeon is like thanks to the medical dramas that we see on TV, however it’s all not really like what is on the screen.
“Scenarios that you may see in TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy are real, but there isn’t the same personal dramatic element that keep viewers tuned in,” said Henderson. “In my line of work you see people coming in sometimes with severe trauma and you are racing against the clock to prevent someone from dying. Physicians are directly involved with that and it can be really tough.
“The reality is that we live in a socialized healthcare system that saves money by restricting care, which means long wait lists. Physicians and surgeons are constantly trying to prioritize people and these individuals pay their taxes, have waited a long time and they don’t want to wait anymore, but there’s no way around it. Our system is always at 100 percent capacity, so when we have a pandemic like COVID-19 or some other health crisis, we’re overwhelmed and it all falls apart. This is a bad side of it.”
It’s pretty clear that Henderson attributes his family roots and parents to ingraining a work ethic that has helped him to become successful. His earlier years growing up in the Valley have helped him shape the life he lives today.
“I would have to say my parents have been my greatest influence over the years,” said Henderson. “We were one of the original pioneer families in the Valley, so it was pretty clear that farming was about work, family values and doing what’s right. This has always stuck with me and has been the recipe for having a successful career in surgery.”