Doctor’s Funny Bone

Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Currie at work.

Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Currie at work.

 

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

When COVID-19 travel restrictions ease this summer, Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Currie and his family will pack up their Washington, D.C., home and head northwest to Victoria.

He will leave behind his CF Health Services Attaché Canadian Defence Liaison Staff (Washington) post to support CF Health Services Centre (Pacific) as Pacific Regional Surgeon.

Servicing the medical needs of military members is serious business, but LCol Currie’s got a remedy to add smiles and chuckles.

He’s a skilled cartoonist that tackles current day world issues such as pollution and COVID-19 with a comedic edge.

“I was always an incorrigible doodler and I still am today,” he says.

Skewed is his cartoon series, once hand drawn in ink, but nowadays drawn digitally. 

“I am of the opinion that we slowly start to lose our imagination as adults. But I never stopped drawing, even throughout my military career, and still get the same enjoyment out of it as I did when I was younger.”

His path to a military career is far different than most in his profession. He was born and raised in Imperial, Saskatchewan – population 360. Intelligence and quick wit helped him graduate at the head of the class at the age of 17.

He surprised everyone when he rejected university and opted to train in Phoenix, Arizona, for a career as a motorcycle mechanic.

“I literally gob-smacked everyone when I decided not to go to university,” he said. “I was good at taking apart clutches and fixing machines, in a round-about way it’s related to medicine – diagnosis and treatment – and I believe the work ethic I learned as a mechanic helped me later in life.”

In 1989, he enrolled in Pre-Med at the University of Regina. Three years later, he enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces Medical Officers Training Program during his first year of medical school at the University of Saskatchewan.

His fascination with art and mechanics would help him flourish in medical school.

“I loved anatomy and sports medicine and the whole idea of how the body worked,” he said. “I would go home from school at night and redraw everything I had learned that day.”

Upon graduation with distinction from the medical program, his biography slowly expanded. He has deployed to Bosnia, then to Kosovo during the 1990s with the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He was Base Surgeon at CFB Borden in 2011. A year later he deployed to Kabul, and in 2015 was the Task Force Surgeon for Operation Provision. He is trained as a family physician with a master’s degree in Occupational Health, Fellowship in Sport Medicine, and has Flight Surgeon and Basic Diving Medicine qualifications.

Coinciding with his military career was his art. He sketched and painted during his deployments. He even received the Surgeon General coin for keeping morale up with the cartoons. He was also lauded for his fundraising efforts to support a local women’s art group in Kabul through his self-published book of cartoons entitled Life on the Top Bunk.

Like many comedians, he highlights the ludicrous in real world situations, and uses that in his cartoons. 

“I think cartoons can be therapeutic. In times of political crisis, when you say a statement that many people have been thinking, it gives you a feeling of ‘we are all in this together’.”

COVID-19 has been especially ripe with the absurd, although he was ahead of his time in 2016 when he began penning outbreak cartoons during a field epidemiology course taken through the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

“I was sitting around with a bunch of students talking about a recent outbreak and I started drawing a cartoon about a bunch of people in a lifeboat,” he said. “One side of the boat had people with spots while the other side was healthy, and the captain was confronting one of the stricken sailors. The caption read: Samuels, how can we hope to contain this outbreak if you won’t stay on your side of the lifeboat?”

“I am constantly reminded of how life imitates art and in this case cartoon art.”

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