– Story by Toby Tannas Photography by Lia Crowe
There isn’t much down time when you’re a busy obstetrician/gynecologist in a small but growing community. When Dr. Nicholas Half does have a moment to glance out his corner office window at the picturesque view of Vernon, he can’t help but be grateful.
Over the past decade, Nicholas has built a beautiful life and practice in the North Okanagan city, but as a young med student this was not the vision he had for his career.
“Not a lot of men have the life dream of being a gynecologist,” he chuckles. “Cardiothoracic surgery was my number one choice; orthopaedic surgery was my second choice, and at the top of the list of things I said I wouldn’t consider was obstetrics/gynecology.”
In his third year of medical school, when students started seeing patients on rotation in the hospital, Nicholas quickly ruled out his top two choices for various reasons and kept coming back to obstetrics/gynecology.
“It was just one of those things. It’s got the medicine component, it’s got patient care, it’s a lot of conversation, not all surgery.”
Ultimately though, it was the patients who cemented his medical future.
“I love what I do. Women are very communicative. They show gratitude and thankfulness. There’s not a lot of specialties in medicine anymore where you hear ‘thank you.’ I hear those words every day.”
Nicholas’ love for the work and his commitment to his patients has recently taken him into a new realm of service: a user-pay procedure that’s rarely offered in a gynecology clinic.
“It’s called the MonaLisa Touch. It’s a non-surgical laser treatment for vaginal dryness, discomfort and irritation.”
After seeing many women suffer through sexual issues post menopause or after battling diseases like cancer, Nicholas decided to make a significant investment in an option that could improve their quality of life.
“You see cancer patients — they can’t even touch estrogen and they suffer. These are women in their 30s and 40s and their sex life is gone. This is who this machine is for.”
Regardless of why a patient is referred to his gynecology clinic, sexual health often comes up in conversation. Nicholas believes that when you can do something to improve or make sex more comfortable for a woman, her life and her relationship improve.
“Sex makes up about five per cent of the relationship when it’s good,” he explains. “But when it’s not, or it’s absent, it makes up 95 per cent of the relationship.”
As a male in a field that’s shifting to predominantly female care providers, Nicholas takes pride in the rapport he’s developed with his patients.
“I think as a doctor you want to be someone a patient can talk to comfortably about whatever they want to talk about, and that feel they’re being respected and listened to.”
Nicholas is well practiced in communicating with women as he’s married with three young daughters.
“We have twins. They’re five years old and we have a three year old. So basically, we have triplets. It’s busy,” he laughs.
With more than 100 hours dedicated to work in an average week, Nicholas doesn’t get to spend as much time with his kids as other dads with 9-to-5 jobs.
“My work life and home life balance could always be better; we all struggle with that as physicians. I just try to give them quality time. They just want to be with you, it doesn’t matter if we’re playing a game or building a gate.”
Nicholas’ wife, Dr. Aisha Manji, is also a physician. It means she understands first-hand the demands of the job.
Nicholas says, “I think that’s probably the best thing, that understanding. I think even in a small community where you’re hoping to have a better lifestyle than the big city, there are still a lot of demands in terms of what you can’t miss, what you have to go to battle for, for your patients.”
The couple will be getting some extra time together over the coming months, though. They’ve committed to dancing in support of the North Okanagan Hospice Society.
“My wife has a tie to the palliative community, end of life care. It’s always been one of her passions.”
Dancing with the Vernon Stars takes place this September. Between now and then, dance practices will become date nights.
“For us to spend that extra time together, dancing together will be nice,” he says with a smile.
The dancing commitment is another weekly appointment in an already very full calendar. But as I sit across from Dr. Half, I get the distinct sense he’s the kind of man who can juggle it all and do it well. Family man, physician, and for the next few months, fundraiser and dancer in support of a cause and a community very close to his heart.
“I love Vernon. My quality of life is great, I’ve got great people around me. That’s what it’s all about.”