Dr John Watt, orthopaedic surgeon, passed away peacefully at his home in Langley surrounded by his children and his wife, Mary. He led a long, fun-filled, and generous life. Born and educated in Vancouver, he spent his summers in Cariboo ranching country, where he first gained his love of farming and cattle. He was part of the third graduating class of the University of British Columbia’s new Medical School in 1956, the same school that his daughters Maggie and Beth would later attend.
Upon graduation, with his new bride, Mary, and his classmate, Roy Schofer, John drove to Fairfield, Alabama, to do a rotating internship at a public hospital. He often talked about his time there and the great practical experience he gained. After the internship, Dr Watt returned to Vancouver and joined the fledgling UBC Orthopaedic Residency Program under Dr F.P. Patterson. Dr Watt was the first UBC medical graduate to join the UBC Orthopaedic Training Program, and during his training period he spent a year studying and teaching anatomy under Professor Sydney Friedman and a year of clinical training at the University of Western Ontario under Dr Jack Kennedy. Dr Watt successfully completed his Royal College Fellowship examinations in 1962 and joined the clinical faculty of UBC and the staff of Vancouver General and Shaughnessy (Veteran’s) Hospitals. He also joined Dr Cam Allen and Dr Donald Starr in a partnership practice that is still in place almost 70 years later as the Division of Orthopaedic Trauma at Vancouver General Hospital. As well, Dr Watt was a consultant and performed surgeries at a hospital in Nanaimo dedicated to the care of the First Nations people, for whom he held a lifelong appreciation and sympathy. In his early years, Dr Watt was very active in teaching medical students and took a particular interest in teaching surgical anatomy to residents. He continued teaching students and residents for his entire 27 years of practice.
Dr Watt was an excellent and very fast technical surgeon. He wasted no time or movement and took the surgical care of his patients very seriously. He had a great sense of humor and many interests, and he spent more time than usual talking to patients, not only about their health but about themselves. He didn’t suffer fools gladly. Pretentiousness was not part of his personality and he disdained it in others, frequently letting them know it. Dr Watt had a special place in his heart for those who were less fortunate and took genuine pleasure in the lives of ordinary people. He and Mary had a large family and always seemed to have some live-in guests staying for a considerable length of time.
Orthopaedic surgery was his vocation but farming and Simmental cattle were his avocation. After he retired in 1989, Dr Watt moved to his farm in Langley and remained very active in the farming community and the Simmental Cattle Association.
As well as his many friends and colleagues, he leaves to mourn his wonderful wife, Mary; his children, Beth, Maggie, Jane, Heather, Hugh, and Bruce; and many grandchildren. His family has set up a John G. Watt Memorial Fund at UBC dedicated to raising money to help students from rural areas attend UBC Medical School (www.memorial.supporting.ubc.ca/john-g-watt/).
—Robert N. Meek, MD
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