Reflecting on sacrifices past and present
Posted on Thursday, November 11, 2021
By Michelle Read
Dr. Maxime Britt-Côté recalls med school getting very real, very fast.
“Within two weeks of starting the program, I had a real patient in front of me,” he explains of his time at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine from 2006 to 2010.
Life moves quickly too, and so on Remembrance Day, Dr. Britt-Côté joins people across Canada in slowing down to reflect on the sacrifices made so that we may live in safety and freedom.
Honour amid the horror
Following his MD degree and a residency in family medicine, Dr. Britt-Côté was posted to Canadian Forces Base Borden, Ontario as a staff physician serving with the Canadian Forces. He soon travelled overseas supporting Canadian Forces troops and their families around Europe, and later in Iraq supporting the fight against ISIS. Each time, he found life’s realities, both cruel and kind, staring him in the face.
“I know world-class soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in recent wars, mainly in Afghanistan, the longest war Canada ever fought in,” he says.
But the challenges of peacekeeping and the horrors of war can be accompanied by a deep sense of honour.
“As a military physician, you’re not only doing the best you can do as a physician, you’re also contributing directly to the fight,” he says. “It’s a privilege to look after those members who are serving and sacrificing so much.”
Dr. Britt-Côté graduated medical school as part of the Faculty’s Military Medical Training Program (MMTP). Through the MMTP, members of the Canadian Armed Forces can apply to medical schools, including the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine.
He feels his med school experiences helped shape his deep instinct for service. He now serves his own learners as a lecturer for the Faculty and an emergency physician at the Montfort Hospital.
“So many physicians and allied health professionals have been extremely generous with their time, which is the greatest gift a mentor can give a learner,” he says. “Now every time I am with a learner, I remind myself to be generous with my own knowledge and experience for their own benefit.”
Lest we forget
Humans often selflessly go to great lengths for one another. Dr. Britt-Côté holds many such individuals his thoughts on Remembrance Day.
“The war in Afghanistan is still very recent and reminds us that some very young people are now veterans,” he says. “So, I have special thoughts for the people I had the privilege to serve with who have passed away, and their remaining families. Some of these heroes were within my own platoon.
“I also of course think of those who served in the World Wars, Korea, and other missions,” he continues. “It’s always a time to remind ourselves of, and to reflect on and understand, the values we stand for and that cannot be taken for granted.”
Service after retirement
Most recently, Dr. Britt-Côté had the honour of caring for Canada’s VVIPs while on various diplomatic missions like the G7 and G20 Summits. Although now retired from regular service, he continues to serve with the Canadian Forces primary reserve.
His plate remains very full, practicing addiction medicine at a clinic in Vanier, a variety of telemedicine, and his emergency role at Montfort. In 1997, he was a strong supporter of the protests against the closing of the Montfort Hospital.
“Montfort’s mission of serving the francophone community and training heath care professionals is extremely important, and is one reason I chose to enroll in the francophone stream of the MD program at uOttawa,” he says. “Twenty-five years later, Montfort is open and thriving, and it’s an awesome hospital.”
Having been born at Montfort, Dr. Britt-Côté says it’s an incredible experience to be back to the hospital as a physician. Now a father himself, he is only too aware that some don’t return from their military service.
“I’m so grateful I was able to come back to my family,” he says.
“I keep in my heart those who couldn’t, and always have a special thought for their families.”
Main photo: Dr. Maxime Britt-Côté on parade at the Canadian military base in Erbil, Iraq, in 2018.
All photo credits: Dr. Maxime Britt-Côté
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The Office Of Francophone Affairs At The Faculty Of Medicine Fund was created to provide financial assistance to Franco-Ontarian students enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine whose education would otherwise be compromised.