Dr Kristen Shelly Sivertz

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 53, No. 10, December 2011, Page 549 Obituaries


Sadly, Dr Kristin Shelly Sivertz passed away at home on the evening of 16 October with her husband, Dr Bill Abbott, at her side.

She was born on 23 June 1951 in London, Ont­ario. Her early education included 3 years spent at a private school in Blackheath, UK. While at the University of Western Ontario, she met her future husband on a field trip to New Bruns­wick. They both went on to complete their medical studies at McMaster University. 

Kris obtained her MD in 1976 and completed her residency in psychiatry at UBC. She ex­celled as a clinician and educator. In 1996 I had the privilege of job sharing with her—initially as co-program director of the UBC psychiatry residency program, and then in 2002 as co-associate dean of Postgraduate Medical Education in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. 

During this period she remained clinically active and was also head of the Department of Psychiatry at St. Paul’s. Kris was appointed as executive associate dean in 2009, stepping down in 2010 because of her illness. Despite her “retirement” she continued to work actively for the faculty as well as carry on as the chair of the Accreditation Committee of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada until July 2011.

These factual milestones however do not do justice to the exceptional personal qualities embodied by this remarkable woman who graced this earth for too short a time. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February 2009. Her battle with this disease brought forth her fundamental essence. 

She was committed and de­voted to her family, visiting her sons David and Patrick and their young families in Australia on five occasions. During this period Bill and Kris also accompanied David and Sarah to India. 

Kris was a strong, passionate, and highly principled individual. I admired her wisdom, warmth, story-telling prowess, deep belly laughs, loyalty, and keen observational skills. I clearly remember the times we would walk past certain colleagues and she would remark “she (or he) does not look good,” only to discover later that they were afflicted with a life-threatening or serious illness. 

Tragically she was not able to employ this diagnostic acumen on herself until the cancer was well advanced. The outpouring of comments on the Facebook Kris Sivertz Support Group page by many family members, friends, and colleagues was a testament to her broad reach, influence, and positive impact in the lives of many.

I feel fortunate and remain grateful for her friendship. I am a much better person for having crossed paths with Kris. Although I continue to grieve her loss, she is also present in every fibre of my being. I conclude with an excerpt from a poem by phi­lo­sopher and author George Santayana:

But yet I treasure in my memory
Your gift of charity, and young heart’s ease,
And the dear honor of your amity;
For these once mine, my life is rich with these.
—Kamal Rungta, MD

Kam Rungta, MD, FRCPC,. Dr Kristen Shelly Sivertz. BCMJ, Vol. 53, No. 10, December, 2011, Page(s) 549 - Obituaries.

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