Dr Hugh D’Orsey Tildesley, 1950–2016

More than a year has gone by since Dr Hugh D’Orsey Tildesley’s passing, and it is time to reflect on his life as a physician and friend to many.

More than a year has gone by since Dr Hugh D’Orsey Tildesley’s passing, and it is time to reflect on his life as a physician and friend to many.

Born in the small town of Rosemère, Quebec, Hugh developed an early love of sports. He played hockey, competed in swimming, and was the quarterback on the Rosemère High School football team. From age 10 he knew that medicine was his calling, and after completing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at McGill University, he went on to pursue his MD there. In 1975 he met his wife, Deborah, and together they moved first to Matheson, Ontario, then to Stony Plain, Alberta, and finally settled in Vancouver in 1984 where Hugh took a position as an endocrinologist at St. Paul’s Hospital. Over the next 32 years, he held positions as head of endocrinology and director of the Diabetes Centre, and created the Western Canadian Insulin Pump Centre and Endocrine Research Society. An innovator, Hugh built the Internet Blood Glucose Monitoring System, which allowed patients to report their blood sugar via a web-based interface. Hugh loved photography, his dogs, tailored nicknames, a new practical joke, and an old-world wine.

Three things made Hugh stand out as a physician. First, he was an advocate for patients, whether through his creation of a fund for patients unable to pay for diabetes-related care, his negotiating skills with hospital administration to support the diabetes clinic, or the training he provided to the next generation of physicians to carry on his efforts. Second, his administrative abilities were beyond compare. Having followed him as acting division head for a few years, I appreciated him even more after he had left the job. He was wise and insightful. He knew well before the rest of us if something would prove contrary to good patient care or if we were being misled. Finally, and most memorably, were his practical jokes. We used to meet every Friday to review cases and then guess the lab results based on the history. One time I got close to a diagnosis but was perplexed at many of the lab results. It was then revealed that the data were from one of our colleague’s Labrador retrievers that had developed a lymphoma. But the most memorable practical joke was the day Hugh sold the medical building we occupied. He took a fax from the building management company and used the letterhead to create a notice of sale and premature termination of lease. This notice was slipped under the door of another physician one night and by noon the next day had gone viral throughout the building—commercial leasing agents had been contacted, lawyers had been retained, and much general hysteria had enveloped our building!

Hugh was a great doctor, a wise mentor, an unparalleled steward of the St. Paul’s Endocrinology Division, and a friend. A testament to all those he touched was seen at his celebration of life at the Point Grey Golf and Country Club, where the number of people greatly exceeded the space, and people flowed out into the halls and foyer. He is deeply missed.

Hugh passed away peacefully on the evening of 13 March 2016 in the Palliative Care Unit of Vancouver General Hospital, surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Deborah, and his three children, Donovan, Hamish, and Catherine.

At Hugh’s request, those wishing to honor his memory may make donations to Pancreatic Cancer Canada at www.pancreaticcancercanada.ca. 
—Richard A. Bebb, MD, ABIM, FRCPC

Richard A. Bebb, MD, ABIM, FRCPC. Dr Hugh D’Orsey Tildesley, 1950–2016. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 7, September, 2017, Page(s) 374 - Obituaries.

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