Kind, caring, funny, compassionate, empathetic, warm, gentle, giving, considerate of others, unconcerned about status, huge heart for all, smiling, humanitarian, genius, enthusiastic adventurer, explorer, searcher open to new ideas, great ability to argue the contrary position, an exceptional human being, a special doctor. David made a difference.
These are just some of the words of remembrance used by David’s classmates from the UBC MD Class of ’69 after learning of David’s unexpected death.
David was born in Vernon and, from age 12, was raised and educated in North Vancouver before attending UBC, where he excelled and was admitted to the Faculty of Medicine at age 19. He interned in Montreal, began a pediatrics residency, then transferred to the London School of Tropical Medicine to complete a diploma in tropical medicine. David then spent 3 years in Kenya, initially in a Canadian-sponsored program, and 1½ years in Nepal establishing and providing maternal and child health care programs. He later also achieved a diploma in traditional Chinese medicine.
David met Joan while in Kenya and they returned from Nepal to BC when expecting their first child. They settled and remained on Hornby Island, where they raised their sons, Elliot and Colin. David provided medical care to his beloved community until 20 years ago when he retired, unwillingly, from his home-based (and subsequently government clinic) practice. David had little choice as new government policies put him in an untenable position with no regard to his personal well-being. That time was very difficult for David as he tried, unsuccessfully, along with other rural physicians, to come to a workable agreement with the government.
David then provided locum care throughout BC, particularly in Clearwater and numerous other remote communities, including several in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Joan and he together worked 3-month contracts in the Arctic during the winter, experiences they found intense and fascinating. With his knowledge of family and emergency medicine, David also served as a ship’s physician and was again able to travel afar including two ecological journeys to Antarctica. He also volunteered in Guatemala.
David was part of the Hornby Island community in many respects. He was an avid tennis player and loved working in theatre, organizing the Fall Fair parades, coaching student sports, and singing with the men’s a capella group. David had a vast musical knowledge and was a deejay for many years on two local radio programs—one classical and the other a weekly themed show, aptly named Slipped Disks. He was also chair of emergency preparedness for the island and worked diligently in conservancy.
David was just beginning a new path in his life. Tragically, he was to be remarried only days after his sudden death, and family thus gathered to grieve, not celebrate. His fiancée, Deb; siblings, Marjorie and Bruce; sons, Elliot and Colin; Joan; the people of Hornby Island; as well as his many friends, will miss him terribly.
David exemplified what it is to be a physician. He was described as a missionary without a religion, and the people of many BC and Northern communities benefited from his care.
—Vera Frinton, MD
—Joan Harris, RN, MACP
—Jean Swenerton, MD
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