Meet the Jurgas! A father and son committed to rural medicine in Nova Scotia

Photo of Dr. Sebastian Jurga (left) and Dr. Milan Jurga (right).
Photo of Dr. Sebastian Jurga (left) and Dr. Milan Jurga (right).

Dr. Milan Jurga and Dr. Sebastian Jurga not only share a connection as a father and son but also as physicians passionate about serving their community, promoting wellbeing and making a meaningful impact. They also share a love for rural Nova Scotian living.

Dr. Milan Jurga completed medical school at the prestigious Charles University in Prague. While living in Prague, he met his wife Jodie, who was teaching English and involved in North American theater. The couple later moved to Slovakia, where Milan pursued and completed his surgical residency. In 1990, they made the decision to move to Canada, specifically to Jodie’s home province of Nova Scotia. After arriving in Canada, Milan furthered his medical training by completing additional residencies in family medicine and emergency medicine. For the past 17 years, he has been practicing in the emergency department at Saint Martha’s Hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

“I really appreciate the immediacy of medicine. Patients entrust us with their personal stories, and it feels both lucky and privileged to be involved in their journeys. It's truly an honor, and I find great joy in connecting with and caring for these individuals,” said Milan. "I also feel welcomed here. The people are genuinely friendly and it's not like living in a big city.”

Dr. Sebastian Jurga grew up observing his father's work and the impact he made on their community. Inspired by Milan's dedication to medicine and the connections he made with patients, Sebastian decided to pursue a career in healthcare.

He completed a Bachelor of Science in psychology in his hometown of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Following graduation, he started working as a psychiatric attendant and the inpatient mental health unit at Saint Martha’s Hospital, gaining valuable experience in the healthcare field. He later attended medical school at the University of Toronto.

“While living in Toronto, I missed rural life a lot, particularly being close to nature and living in a small community,” explained Sebastian. “Early in my training, I knew that I wanted to practice as a rural physician.”

Following medical school, Sebastian was delighted to learn that he had been matched to his top-choice residency program, the North Nova Residency Program at Dalhousie University. Practicing in Amherst, Truro, New Glasgow and Antigonish, the program offers a longitudinal family medicine curriculum. This means that residents spend two years embedded in a family practice where they will follow a group of patients, gaining skills and experience in areas like maternal care, mental health, and senior care.

"Unlike many other residency programs that follow a block-based approach, where residents rotate through specific specialties for extended periods, our program takes a longitudinal approach. We are scattered across various specialties throughout the week. This structure provides us with a full scope of real practice opportunities,” said Sebastian. “It has been an excellent experience so far.”

Sebastian's hopes to remain in Nova Scotia and dedicate his medical career to serving the community that stood by him during his medical school application journey. He feels a profound sense of duty to give back to the medical community that supported him.

When asked for advice on pursuing medicine, Milan and Sebastian both emphasized not counting oneself out of the race too early, even if high school performance was not exemplary. They stressed the importance of perseverance, not getting discouraged, and giving each application cycle the best effort. They also highlighted that many successful medical students have faced multiple attempts before being accepted. Furthermore, they encourage aspiring medical students to explore grants and funding opportunities to overcome the financial barriers associated with the application process.

Outside of their medical careers, both Milan and Sebastian enjoy outdoor activities. Their spare time is often spent with family and friends, skiing, and walking the family dog. In September, they are excited about embarking on a hiking adventure together along the challenging Fundy Footpath in New Brunswick.