Pro's corner : Dominique Bourassa
– Interview with an expert in medico-social intervention in designated centers –
Dominique Bourassa is a médecin-conseil en santé publique for cases of violence and sexual assault as well as a field GP at a family planning clinic. She also has a practice at the Hôpital régional de Rimouski in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, and provides palliative care to patients at the Maison Marie-Éisabeth in Rimouski.
Dominique obtained her medical degree from Université de Montréal in 1995. Starting in 1996, she began working with victims of sexual assault and a s a GP at the Clinique de planification des naissances de Rimouski
for adolescents and adults. She became a médecin-conseil en santé publique for violence and sexual assault in 1999 and played an active role in setting up designated centres in the Bas-Saint-Laurent. In 2001, she was responsible for providing training in forensic intervention with sexual assault victims in the region. In 2006, she was involved in setting up child protection centres (cliniques pédiatriques en protection de l’enfance or CPPE) in Rimouski and Rivière-du-Loup. Since July 2017, she has been involved with CRAIP (Centre de recherche appliquée en intervention psychosociale) in connection with provincial training in forensic intervention with sexual assault victims in designated centres (offered online).
Dominique sits on several committees, including the Comité régional des cliniques pédiatriques en protection de l’enfance (CPPE), the Comité régional des centres désignés à recevoir des victimes d’agression sexuelle, the Table de concertation régionale en matière de violence conjugale et d’agression sexuelle, the Comité des partenaires en prévention de l’exploitation sexuelle des jeunes (BSL), the Comité-aviseur du Service-conseil aux centres désignés pour l’intervention médicosociale auprès des victimes d’agression sexuelle, and the Comité exécutif du Service de médecine générale du CISSS-BSL.
Why did you want to become a doctor?
When I was in Cegep, my favourite courses were biology and psychology, so I thought that studies in the health field would combine the two in an interesting way. And I was right! When I ended up in medical school, the entire curriculum was based on the biopsychosocial approach. Even during my residency, I was following pregnancies, children, families or patients with psychological problems. I found it extremely interesting to listen to this clientele and to try to find ways to help them.
Could you tell us about one of the professional challenges you had to face while working with designated centres?
One of the biggest challenges was setting up designated centres throughout our region. A colleague and I drove around to visit the eight hospitals in the Bas-Saint-Laurent to talk to people on the ground and ask them what they thought should be done with respect to services for sexual assault victims. Everyone gave us the same answer: they wanted to learn how to receive victims at their own hospital. If there were designated centres only in Rimouski or Rivière-du-Loup, victims in more remote areas would not drive an hour and a half just for a consultation.
It was also very challenging when we had to collaborate with pediatricians and the youth centre in order to set up child protection centres (cliniques pédiatriques en protection de l’enfance). We met for over a year to work as a team to create a clinic where children and young adolescents who were victims of sexual assault, physical abuse and neglect would be seen.
After conducting a difficult medico-social intervention with a victim of sexual assault, what is your favourite way to decompress and clear your head?
I always find it helpful to talk with a colleague about the case (anonymously, of course). Since I work with nurses and doctors who have all been trained in medico-social intervention, we all speak the same language. Over the years, we have all learned that we can count on each other for support. After that, since I live near the river, I like to go for a nice long walk. Nothing is better than a breath of fresh air and the wind off the St. Lawrence to clear your thoughts.
What is it that motivates you to keep working with sexual assault victims?
My motivation comes from my personal conviction of the importance of preventing sexual assault, focusing on sex education in schools, and my desire to help victims who have the courage to ask for help, because there aren’t very many places to get it. I really want the team to be there to welcome them, offer them the care they need and refer them to the people that can help them recover from their trauma without too much damage.
What advice would you give someone who was just starting to do medico-social intervention at a designated centre?
Never hesitate to ask someone more experienced for advice. I really like working with people who know their limits and who don’t hesitate to call with questions when they don’t know the answers. We’re allowed to be less than perfect and to want to learn. It’s especially exciting now that people in more remote locations can call [the Support Service for designated centres providing medico-social services for sexual assault victims] and get the answers they need. In the end, the most important thing is to have a good attitude. Our job is to welcome, believe and help.
On a more personal note …
Latest good books Dominique has read:
Euphoria, by Lily King,
Moi, ce que j’aime, c’est les Monstres, by Emil Ferris
Last good movie she saw:
Le Château ambulant, by Hayao Miyazaki
Her favourite song:
Sans titre (andante), by Jean-Michel Blais
Her favourite quote:
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Seneca
Her dream travel destination: