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One of my favourite Hausa proverbs (Mun gaji da kyau, hali muke nema) means “We are tired of beauty, we are looking for people with good character.” I often wish our communities would celebrate good character as much as we celebrate beauty. That’s one of the reasons I’m excited about an upcoming event called “The Pillars”.

On October 19, 2012, the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville in Ontario, Canada will celebrate character by honouring some of the family doctors who have contributed in remarkable ways for many decades. It will be a commemoration of the heritage of Family Medicine in our community.

The event is called “The Pillars” because it will recognize some of the pillars in our town – that is, the supporting, integral, and upstanding members of society. Specifically, on this evening we will be honouring six physicians who have been pillars of our community through contributions as family doctors: Dr. Douglas Brodie, Dr. John Button, Dr. Glenn Graham, Dr. Donald Petrie, Dr. Donald Smith and Dr. Jack White. These doctors can tell us their personal stories of medical practice to go back to as early as the 1940s! They remained in medical practice for  up to 50 years.

One highlight of the event will be the premiere of a short documentary featuring interviews of the six honoured guests. I’ve had a sneak preview of the documentary and I can tell you that the interviews include fascinating stories about health care in days gone by that range from poignant and surprising to charming and hilarious.

Brierbush Hospital

Another treat of the evening will be the unveiling of the first book written about Brierbush Hospital that served the Stouffville community from 1875 to 1975. The book is written by Dr. Donald Petrie and it tells a beautiful story that is now captured in print to help us remember for years to come.

As one of the members of the organizing committee, I happen to know that “The Pillars” has five goals:

  1. To honour these family doctors who gave decades of their lives to serve our community;
  2. To document the stories of medical practice in the past, including work at institutions such as the Brierbush Hospital;
  3. To uphold the heritage of caring that is a hallmark of a great family physician;
  4. To “pass the torch” to a new generation of Family Medicine trainees, now that Markham Stouffville Hospital is a community-affiliated teaching site for the University of Toronto;
  5. To raise money for the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation.

There are still tickets available for “The Pillars” on Friday October 19 at 6:30 pm. There are also opportunities to sponsor the event. The venue is the new Stouffville Legion Banquet Hall. If you are interested in attending the event or being a sponsor, please call the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation at 905-472-7373 ext. 6341 as soon as possible.

Though I have worked as a family doctor in several parts of the world, my real Family Medicine roots have been set down in this community where I have lived since 1998. I practiced as a family physician in Stouffville starting in 1998 until I moved my practice down the road to Markham in 2010 to help establish the new Family Medicine Teaching Unit at Markham Stouffville Hospital. It has been a huge personal privilege to have practiced medicine with some of the great pillars of our town. I’m happy to introduce these senior physicians to some of the brilliant and enthusiastic young physicians who are now training to serve the same community as family doctors. I can hardly wait to join my friends and neighbours in honouring the physicians who have served in years gone by. On October 19, we will celebrate the legacy of caring!

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