I am the I in IWK – Dr. Jessica Mills, Pediatric Surgeon

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Dr. Jessica Mills is a pediatric surgeon in the Department of Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery at the IWK Health Centre. Mills completed medical training in her home city of Vancouver, B.C. and from there headed to the States for a brief period before a job opened up at the IWK. She found herself applying for the position on the opposite coast and it landed her and her family in Halifax.

It’s been just over four years since Mills started, and in that time she has formed the tight-knit bonds, at work and in the community, that the Maritimes can be known for. Mills says that it’s how these unique relationships can be found in the IWK that help make it so special.

“The good thing about the IWK is, where it’s small, we can build really strong relationships,” says Mills. “We’re well poised to take advantage of the inter-professional network to leverage those relationships. More people know each other and have relationships so we tend to lean towards working together as opposed to putting up roadblocks. We may not be big by numbers, but we’re still a player in doing research and teaching, and to achieve that is really special.”

These bonds flow into more than medical practices and research, Mills says that the colleagues on her team make coming to work that much better. “I feel so lucky that I have people in my division that I love to see outside of work as well as work with. We’re all growing together and supporting each other in trying to get to our best place.”

Those bonds were proven to Mills last year when her mother passed away suddenly and her colleagues didn’t miss a beat. Mills says they went “above and beyond” to make sure she could focus on her family and not worry about her work.

“No one wants to take an extra weekend of being on-call, but they just stepped in. Someone took the OR for me, someone else took over cases that I left behind, and some took surgeries that had been planned,” says Mills. “Even more colleagues reached out with information from specialties that I didn’t understand, and that really made me feel like I was part of something very special.”

“We came here mostly because it was a job in Canada, but it’s ended up being far more than we could ever even hope for. Everyone in my family is really happy here. I have a job I love, my kids are in great communities, and my husband has lots of friends. It’s worked out really well, and it’s a great fit.”