Dr Larry Collins, a true leader in medicine and a distinguished citizen of our time, left us on 24 July 2012, after a sudden cardiac arrest. He was 68.
Larry was born in Vancouver, and after completing a BSc, received his MD from UBC in 1968.
After an internship at Mount Sinai City Hospital Center at Elmhurst in New York, he returned home to Vancouver to set up practice in family medicine—his life’s goal. To his medical school classmates he was invariably polite, gracious, and kind, as well as intellectual and philosophical. A tongue-in-cheek caption below his photo in our graduation yearbook read, “A follower of world affairs, Larry is one of the better read people in our class. He is best described as an ultraconservative with strong left-wing leanings—or is it sympathy with the NDP with definite Goldwaterian tendencies?” During those early years in practice, he worked tirelessly to hold our class together and invited us all to his 40th birthday party.
Early on, he became recognized for his wise leadership of medical staff and organizations. He truly understood the importance of professional standards in medicine as well as just how critical it is to have an exchange of ideas among physicians. He became an icon as a diplomatic chairman, a role requiring high-level negotiating and mediation skills. He was a great communicator. Larry always listened, and when he spoke it was always to say something concisely intelligent.
In 2003 Larry’s colleagues at Vancouver General Hospital awarded him with “The People’s Choice Award for the Best Supporting Actor for the Role of Solomon,” which was symbolic, as such awards from sincerely respectful peers are almost unheard of in medical politics. In 2007 he received the BCMA David Bachop Gold Medal for distinguished medical service and extraordinary contribution to the profession, acknowledging his expertise in clinical medicine and his contributions to the UBC Faculty of Medicine and to medical organizations. The BCMA Silver Medal of Service, its highest award, was presented to him in 2009.
His exemplary voluntary contributions were widely recognized. These included leadership roles as chief of medical staff and board member at VGH, and chief of family practice at BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre. During his leadership as president of the Vancouver Medical Association from 2002 to 2004, he drove the successful formation of the Community Medical Staff Association, uniting physicians throughout the entire Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.
A BCMA board and committee member for many years, he also volunteered to chair committees for the Greater Vancouver Regional District and the Ministry of Health. He enjoyed and was very proud of his responsibilities as clinical assistant professor with the UBC Faculty of Medicine as well as his leadership roles in many UBC committees including the Admissions Selection Committee.
His stature and pervasive influence as a leader in clinical and organized medicine were only part of what made Larry a great physician. His wisdom was legendary, and his support of and devotion to his patients knew no bounds. As his medical colleagues, we quietly understood his respect for us. He was truly the best professional friend anybody could have.
He worked unbelievably hard to improve the lives of his patients, as well as his fellow physicians. To top it off, he was dedicated to seeking recognition and awards for others while remaining incredibly humble.
We would often discuss our philosophies of medical care. His approach to confronting something particularly daunting in his practice was to say, “You know, life is so complicated—you just have to manage what comes.” This approach characterized so well his empathy and high emotional intelligence.
Throughout his life and career, Larry listened a lot and pontificated a little. He respected knowledge and curiosity. He spoke his mind concisely and with confidence. At both professional and personal levels, he challenged adversity with vigor. He cultivated and treasured his family and friends, and lived by a saying that all good poker players know: What counts isn’t what life deals you, but how you deal with it. He lived the golden rule and never compromised. He led by example based on his own personal experiences. He was the personification of generosity of spirit and was a consummate gentleman. The dignity, compassion, and respect with which he treated absolutely everyone was contagious.
Larry leaves his beloved wife Terry; daughters Lysette, Lisa (Kendol), and Ashley; and grandchildren Malaya and Pia; as well as his mother, siblings, extended family, and friends.
His influence upon everyone he touched will be his enduring legacy. We are all so much richer for having had him in our lives.
—Linda J. Warren, MD