Art for art's sake - Dr. Rick Balharry, medical doctor and surgeon

Article content

Dr. Rick Balharry has been practicing medicine in the Bow Valley since 1979.

Originally from Scotland, he started working at Canmore’s small, volunteer built hospital which was once located on St. Barbara’s Terrace, in the days when Main Street was the only paved road in Canmore.

“Canmore was a small community at that time. I joined the Canmore Medical Clinic with Dr. Wally Bryson and Dr. Peter Barling,” Balharry said. “In spite of the small size of the hospital, we ran an emergency department, an operating room and maternity including Caesarian sections. As the population grew and with the anticipated 1988 Olympic Games, our new hospital was built and opened in 1986.”

Balharry can’t remember the number of babies he has delivered.

“I have no idea, but a lot, as I not only had my own maternity patients, but I did the Sections for many of the other doctors,” Balharry said. “I was Chief of Medical Staff at the Canmore Hospital for over 20 years and passed this position on a year ago. I no longer do shifts at the Emergency room, do maternity care or look after patients on acute care. I still have two days a month for surgery, most of which now is for varicose veins.”


Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Balharry is a people person who enjoys his work.

“One funny thing that comes to mind was one time when I was doing a Caesarian Section at the Banff hospital,” Balharry said. “For some reason my scrub pants became untied and dropped to my ankles. And that was how they had to stay until the end of the operation. The good humoured father presented me, the next day, not with the traditional cigar, but with a pair of suspenders.”

In 1995, he introduced the first cosmetic laser to the Bow Valley and established a cosmetic medical practice called the Canmore MediSpa and Laser Centre, located at 901 Eighth Street.

His skin technicians give skin care advice, light treatment for acne, pigmentation, rosacea and precancerous conditions, microdermabrasion, fractional radiofrequency resurfacing and one of their popular treatments, the Vampire Facial.

“I am the only doctor at the clinic now and I do all the injections and the ablative laser procedures. I also do the full gamut of care for varicose veins from simple injections for small spider veins, to ultrasound guided injections for more complex veins and surgical stripping for large veins,” Balharry said. “Modern treatments with injectables such as Botox and fillers are very common and in trained hands, very safe.”

He does not practice family medicine now.

“I do, however, have a large part of my practice devoted to pain therapy, mostly musculoskeletal. I have practiced prolotherapy for almost 40 years. This is the injection of usually a dextrose solution into damaged ligaments to restabilize loose joints. Damaged ligaments are what account for the majority of back pain but can also include any joint in the body. He does PRP, which involves injecting platelets into the joints or ligaments to regenerate the tissues.


Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“This is an area of my practice that has been extremely rewarding as many people have been debilitated with chronic pain and this treatment has given them new life and mobility.”

We have all had our lives changed with the COVID-19 virus, he said.

“I am not personally worried about getting the virus although I am well in to the high risk age category,” Balharry said. “My worry would be contracting the virus from the perspective of transmitting it to others.”

He remembers the precautions taken with the SARS virus.

“I cannot recall taking anything like those precautions to the extent that we are now,” Balharry said. “Most of that effort was directed towards isolating extended care and nursing homes to protect the elderly and debilitated.”

This virus has created an enormous amount of fear as has been seen with the hoarding of materials and food and now weapons and ammunition, he said.

“Although it is probably self-preservation, it is a little sad to think that we have come to this. I think that it will be a long time before people feel comfortable with a hand-shake and some may never revert to that,” Balharry said. “In the future, I think that we all just have to respect each other’s feelings and needs and not be critical. Perhaps if or when we get a vaccine, this may cause a bit more confidence. Although we know that the influenza virus can kill, we have annual vaccines to protect against it, yet less than 50 percent of the population gets vaccinated.”
Last year marked 50 years for him as a physician, 40 of which have been in Canmore.

“Although as a rural physician we had big demands on our personal time (as my kids will attest to through many missed events) I can honestly say that I have loved every minute of my professional life,” Balharry, who with his wife Susan have six children and five grandchildren, said. “Soon, I will have to consider retirement and I am finding that the greatest challenge that I have ever faced. I have loved the people that I have had the good fortune to care for and loved the confidence that these people have had in me to be their doctor. What better testimony to life can there be?”

News Near Bow Valley

This Week in Flyers