Medicine is all in the family for the MacMullins: Father-daughter physicians working together at Cape Breton Regional Hospital

Dr. Elwood MacMullin and Dr. Gillian MacMullin
Dr. Elwood MacMullin and Dr. Gillian MacMullin

Dr. Elwood MacMullin beams with pride when he talks about his daughter Dr. Gillian MacMullin; an obstetrician who recently moved home to practice in Cape Breton. 

“I’m very proud,” he said. “I can very easily picture her as a little girl, so it’s very special having her home and practicing here.” 

Elwood is the medical director for the Cape Breton Cancer Centre and Palliative Care Services. He retired from general surgery a few years ago, but is now happy to assist Gillian in the operating room. 

“To be performing surgery with my dad and know that he supports me unconditionally – that’s very special,” Gillian said. 

Elwood originally thought Gillian would become a veterinarian. However, she credits her parents – both physicians – for guiding her on her path to medicine. 

“I guess I’m a by-product of having a father as a surgeon and a mother who is a family physician,” she said.

“To have my parents to bounce ideas off of and get advice from is wonderful.” 

Medicine runs in the MacMullin family. Like her dad, Gillian graduated from Acadia University before pursuing her medical degree from Dalhousie University. Her mother, Gail, is a retired physician and her sister Amy is a family physician in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

Now colleagues, Elwood and Gillian are at very different stages of their careers. 

Looking back on his, Elwood said there’s not much he would change about his 30 year career in Cape Breton so far. 

“It’s been very satisfying and very gratifying; you help people live better lives every day,” he said. 

“Cape Breton has always been our home. It’s extremely collegial. My colleagues have been like a community over the years. We help each other and lend a hand when needed.” 

For Gillian who is just starting out, she looks forward to a career advocating for women’s health. 

“I’m excited to help the women of Cape Breton by addressing their health concerns and issues,” she said. “I’ve always been passionate about women’s health and women’s rights, so obstetrics was a natural fit.” 

With her parents support and the support from her local colleagues, Gillian is happy to be home. 

“Growing up, my dad’s colleagues were his friends. They practiced together, learned from each other and supported one another,” she said. “I’m lucky to have a group of physicians locally. We are a community of support for each other, so I see that cycle continuing.”