General Practitioners in Oncology, key members of community oncology teams

General Practitioners in Oncology (GPOs) Dr. Annette Harris and Dr. Christian Pugh
General Practitioners in Oncology (GPOs) Dr. Annette Harris and Dr. Christian Pugh

General Practitioners in Oncology (GPOs) are key members of the provincial cancer care team. GPOs play an integral role as Oncology Specialist physician extenders and members of an interdisciplinary team to provide as much care as is safely possible close to home. They work collaboratively with cancer care teams and their local team of nurses, pharmacists and supportive care providers to supervise the delivery of systemic therapy, manage treatment side effects, and provide follow-up care – all of which enables patients to stay connected with their family supports and home community and reduces their burden of travel.

Two half-time GPOs joined the community cancer care team at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater early in 2022: Dr. Annette Harris and Dr. Christian Pugh.

Meet Dr. Annette Harris

Dr. Harris joined the cancer care team at the South Shore Regional Hospital as a .5 GPO in February 2022.  Previously, she was a hospitalist at South Shore Regional and worked in the emergency room at Queen’s General Hospital in Liverpool. Dr. Harris currently spends half time as a GPO and the other half doing rural emergency medicine.  

“To be honest, I never really pictured myself within the scope of oncology, as my training was in family medicine,” said Dr. Harris. “However, GP Oncology is an expanding area of practice and I am glad that I have made this transition.”  

A typical day as a GPO has Dr. Harris seeing patients in follow up during their chemotherapy/immunotherapy, reviewing toxicities and responding to infusion reactions as well as addressing any medical concerns that they have experienced since their last visit. Dr. Harris also follows cancer patients, along with the hospitalists, when they are admitted to hospital.  

“So far, the position has been rewarding. Patients are very grateful to be able to receive their treatments close to home, as well as many of their follow up visits,” she said.  “There are also a lot of oncology patients who do not have a family physician and they appreciate being able to contact the clinic if urgent medical issues arise during their treatment, which improves their access to health care.  

Outside of work, Dr. Harris enjoys spending time with her husband and 4-year-old son, Gavin.  “We love to spend time outdoors, especially biking and hiking. I have also recently been enjoying pilates.”

Meet Dr. Christian Pugh 

Dr. Pugh joined the cancer care team at South Shore Regional Hospital in April 2022. Prior to this, he worked as a full-time emergency physician for 17 years first in St. John’s and then in Bridgewater when he and his family moved to Nova Scotia in 2003. Dr. Pugh left emergency medicine in 2016 and started a family practice in New Germany in February 2016.

“Last year, I saw the advertisement for the GPO position and it piqued my interest as I enjoyed the cancer care aspect of my practice,” said Dr. Pugh. “I met with Drs. Bruce Colwell and Helmut Hollenhorst to discuss the particulars of the position and thought it was a great opportunity to join the cancer care team and work half time in cancer care and the other half in family practice.

Like Dr. Harris, Dr. Pugh is the local general practitioner with special training who monitors patients during and following their chemotherapy/immunotherapy, handling infusion reactions as well as addressing any medical concerns that they have experienced since their last visit. He also follows cancer patients, along with the hospitalists, when they are admitted to hospital.  

“It really is the best of both worlds.”

Dr. Pugh has a son and a daughter, both of whom are at university. His daughter is finishing a Criminology degree at St. Mary’s and his son is in his 3rd year of Medicine at Memorial.

Outside of work Dr. Pugh enjoys the outdoors, especially beach walks. He is an avid reader and goes to the gym regularly for stress relief.