PEI's first cancer physician stays connected to the system

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Dr. Dagny Dryer was more than ready to spend a quiet retirement painting and tending to her tomato crop after more than 30 groundbreaking years as a medical oncologist. That was until Prince Edward Island’s first cancer doctor began to feel the magnetic pull of medicine once again.

“When I first retired, I didn’t want to have anything to do with medicine,” she said. “But then I started to miss it.”

Dryer was chosen to be the voice of physicians on the Health PEI Board of Directors through Engage PEI, which helps Islanders apply to volunteer on more than 70 provincial government agencies, boards, and commissions. As the only board member who is a doctor, she plans to bring a critical physician’s perspective.

“I am very aware of patients’ needs,” she said, noting that access to primary and mental health care is a top priority for her.

Another deficiency she sees in the system is lack of clarity for patients between the onset of their symptoms and a diagnosis. “Once a patient has a diagnosis it is pretty straightforward, but the weeks and months leading to diagnosis can be a bewildering time."

Dryer’s whole life has been spent caring for others’ health. She graduated in medicine from the University of Toronto in 1972 and trained as a hematologist and medical oncologist in Halifax, Montreal and Toronto.

After practicing medicine in Nepal, she moved to the Island and founded the oncology clinic, later renamed the Prince Edward Island Cancer Treatment Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She practiced at the centre – and operated clinics at Prince County and Kings County Memorial hospitals – for the next 32 years before retiring in 2013.

While she ponders the big picture of Island medicine, Dryer loves to cycle, hike, ski, and make chutneys with the “Sweet Millions tomatoes" grown on the seaside winery she and her husband call home.

She also paints landscapes that can be found at galleries and cafés across the Island.

“Prince Edward Island is a great community to practice as a doctor,” Dryer said. “I’ve been rewarded, as a person, as much as I have given.”

To learn more about which agency, board or commission may fit your interests, visit Engage PEI.  

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