Surrey family doctor Dr. Parmjit Sohal has been named Canada’s Family Physician of the Year for B.C. by the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
The college selects one doctor from each province to receive the prestigious award. Sohal is an expert in the treatment and management of diabetes and cardiovascular disease with a focus on the South Asian community and has had numerous studies published on the subject. The college says he has “set the standard as a dedicated family doctor and a caring member of his community.”
Since 1997, Sohal has been a family physician in Surrey and a clinical associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of B.C. He also teaches at Surrey Memorial Hospital. He took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to The Vancouver Sun about his passion for family medicine and helping members of his community, many of whom suffer from diabetes. The following interview has been edited for length and space.
Q: This is a prestigious award. How do you feel about being named physician of the year?
A: Oh this really means a lot to me. I’m really honoured to receive this award. Any family doctor would love to receive an award from the college, but to receive Physician of the Year is the ultimate honour. I’m just so pleased and humble and honoured.
Q: The focus of your research is in diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the South Asian community. What drew you to specialize in this area?
A: The South Asian community, my community, has a very high rate of diabetes. The risk of diabetes is three to five times higher in this community compared with the regular population. The area of Surrey where I practise (medicine) is dominated by South Asians and almost two-thirds of the diabetes patients here are South Asian, so that’s a huge problem on the economy and health care system. If I can do something to raise awareness in this ethnic community and make a difference in the lives of people who have diabetes then that would be very good for my community.
Q: Why are these particular diseases so prevalent in the South Asian community?
A: They are genetically predisposed and when they come to these western societies, countries like Canada or the U.S. or England, they are living in an environment where there is a lack of physical activity, and they may have a lack of knowledge of diabetes. They may not have the cultural or linguistic care they need and may not go to the doctor regularly. Some new immigrants don’t understand what is available out there. So it is very important to provide the culturally relevant material so they can understand these things. Also a lot of people don’t know they have diabetes. I think if people are in this high-risk category they should be screened at a younger age (than 40) and more frequently. There are no clear-cut guidelines for primary care physicians. Even at age 20, the risk of diabetes is higher in this population.