November 29, 2023 | Our Team

Following her passion for medicine, ER doctor joins STARS

Portrait of STARS Transport Physician Dr. Darla Palmer in her blue STARS flight suit, photographed in the STARS locker room.

There’s something about a calling, a passion for a profession you just can’t ignore. Dr. Darla Palmer couldn’t deny the ambition to serve. It lived inside of her from the time she was a young girl, living in the community of Souris in rural Manitoba.

“When I was 13 years old, I lost my house in a fire,” recounted Dr. Palmer. “That certainly drew my attention to the importance of having fire services in rural communities.”

The loss of the only home she knew and the compassionate care she received from first responders that day left an indelible mark. She wanted to help people in the same way she was supported.

“I wanted to be able to assist people in an emergency, to help them with that crisis in their life. I thought of it as very fulfilling.”

As soon as she was able to immerse herself in emergency services, Dr. Palmer seized the opportunity.

“When I was 17, I joined the fire department as a junior member. When I turned 18, I was able to start going on calls,” Dr. Palmer said.

She also grew up with a role model, her stepfather, who served as an emergency medical technician (EMT).

“I watched him being on call and hearing the pager go off around the clock. It certainly inspired me,” Dr. Palmer recalled. “I always remember being aware that what he was doing was so vital and important. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Dr. Palmer joined the Canadian Armed Forces and served for years before she was nudged towards her true calling.

“I started in artillery and after working there for several years, I was encouraged by some of the military leadership who saw my potential to apply for a medic position. I became involved in the civilian side and was licensed as an EMT,” she said.

It was a gratifying part of her life journey, but she wanted to do even more. She continued working as an EMT while pursuing medical school.

“Eventually I decided to apply for medicine. There was something about it I was just drawn to.” Dr. Palmer currently works in the emergency department at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg and has recently completed her residency in emergency medicine.

“I’ll begin working with STARS after I graduate in November,” Dr. Palmer said. “I will be assisting with the logistics of transporting critically ill and injured patients in the province, in addition to providing consultant advice to other medical professionals.”

She will be on-call to oversee missions and, at times, travel on board the flights. “There will be situations where I will fly with the air medical crew to provide direct hands-on patient care.”

She is looking forward to the challenge, which she attests is a full circle moment.

STARS Transport Physician Dr. Darla Palmer poses in her lab coat and stethoscope in front of a STARS H145 helicopter.

“STARS is a way of bridging critical care and timely care to patients that live in rural areas,” she affirmed. “I think all people are deserving of timely health care, regardless of their place of residence.”

Dr. Palmer is also embracing the responsibility of being a parent. She is a new mother and is balancing her career with her 13-month-old son at home. Motherhood has brought a renewed purpose to her work, merging her personal and professional life.

It reinforced the parallels of selflessness, devoting her life to her patients and her new family.

“My career has taken on a whole different meaning. Certain calls and patient cases just hit differently,” she said. “Becoming a mom shifts so many things and changes the dynamics of your job.”

She admires what STARS represents and is humbled to be a part of the crew that saves lives.

“Just the thought of being able to provide comprehensive, timely, critical care to patients, regardless of their location, just drives me to provide the best patient care possible.”

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