Who We Are: Dr. Matthew Noble Wohlgemut
“I was trained to hear where someone is coming from,” he says. “Being able to understand different perspectives helps you to understand how organizations work. It helps with my patients as well.” – Dr. Matthew Noble Wohlgemut, Assistant Clinical Professor, Grimsby, ON
Leading the battle for community health care
When family doctor Matthew Noble Wohlgemut was tapped to be interim medical director of West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in October 2018, the organization faced a full-blown crisis.
The former medical director, , had resigned during tense negotiations for provincial funding to upgrade the 1947-vintage hospital in Grimsby after a report recommended relocating its obstetrics and surgery programs to other sites for years during construction.
Once gone, vital medical programs are very difficult to reestablish and the loss meant the hospital would effectively have to close, Dr. Noble Wohlgemut said at the time. He then led a successful campaign for $200 million in provincial funding to build a new structure behind the existing hospital, which is scheduled for completion by 2025.
The July 2019 agreement maintains emergency, anesthesia and elective surgeries in the existing building during construction, and includes bringing the old surgery suites up to code.
It also keeps valued medical specialists in the local community, he says.
“The pitch (to the province) was not, ‘we need to maintain this hospital.’ It was ‘we need to maintain this rural medicine program and this community of physicians, with their specialized focus on rural medicine, so they can train the next generation of physicians to do the same.”
Known by patients as ‘Dr. Mat,’ he graduated the medical program at McMaster University in 2003 after completing a Master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Toronto in 1999. He credits philosophy with helping him seal a deal for the West Lincoln hospital.
“I was trained to hear where someone is coming from,” he says. “Being able to understand different perspectives helps you to understand how organizations work. It helps with my patients as well.”
Mat chose family medicine over an academic career in philosophy because it provides social connection. He is married to Laura Noble Wohlgemut, and they are raising their children, Isabel and Maeve, in West Lincoln, which they chose precisely for its rural hospital community.
With provincial talks resolved, he has scaled back the 60-hour weeks, and since stepping down as medical director on March 1, is enjoying a renewed focus on family and family practice.
He remains philosophical about the path ahead. “I’ve swung back into my role as dance dad – and I’m happy to be able to focus time on that for the next while,” he says.