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Photo credit: Krista Beatty Photography

Dr. John Button is 96 years old. He still lives on the same street as the house in which he was born. He was a doctor in this town for 44 years – during which time he delivered well over a thousand babies. He established a family practice group that exists to serve our town to this day. The incomparable Dr. Button is one of the pillars of the Markham Stouffville community.

Last Friday night we had a great event in Stouffville celebrating six pillars of our community. It was a grand occasion and a wonderful opportunity to join together in recognizing the legacy of these family doctors: Dr. Douglas Brodie, Dr. John Button, Dr. Glenn Graham, Dr. Donald Petrie, Dr. Donald Smith and Dr. Jack White. We showed a beautiful documentary featuring terrific stories from the interviews of these men.

Since that evening when we rallied as a community, I’ve been reflecting about why we all felt it was so important to show our gratitude to these physicians. I think the answer is found in the Hausa proverb that I cited from the podium at the close of the event. When I lived in West Africa, I learned that the Hausa people say: “Mun gaji da kyau; hali muke nema.” This means “We are tired of beauty; we are looking for good character.”

Indeed it is the good character of the pillars of Stouffville that distinguishes them. In a time when we feel rather disillusioned about character traits of some of society’s heroes, it was a treat to look at those six men and identify the traits that make them worthy of being honoured. In my reflection about these very people, I find three traits that stand out in particular:

  1. Altruism: It required a remarkable amount of selfless service to be a small town doctor in the last century. These doctors were always available to their patients and they authentically exhibited unselfish concern for the welfare of their community.
  2. Humility: None of these men sought fame or accolades. They quietly went about their important work and they were genuine professionals. You could tell from the Pillars DVD that they each have a great sense of humour. This ability not to take themselves too seriously is a mark of true humility.
  3. Perseverance: I’m amazed at how the doctors that we were honouring stuck with their work over so many decades – some of the practicing medicine in this town for 50 years or more. But their commitment to care – day after day, week after week, and year after year – was relentless and unshakable.

I am privileged to have known these pillars of my community. Watching them and listening to them makes me want to be a better doctor and a better person.

(If you live in the Markham Stouffville area and would like to purchase the Pillars DVD or the book about Brierbush hospital, they will be sold at the Stouffville Medical Centre and at the Health for All Family Health Team in Markham, while supplies last.)


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