Dr Robert Douglas Burgess, 1950–2021

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 64, No. 1, January February 2022, Pages 36-37 Obituaries

Dr Robert Douglas Burgess

My dear friend Rob passed away at home in his bedroom overlooking his gorgeous lake and mountain vista. He had been lovingly cared for by his wife, Jan; daughter, Micky; and son, Johnny. His illness was sudden and cruelly aggressive. Thankfully, he stuck to his life’s motto—if you are going to go downhill, make it fast!

Rob and I met in 1968 in first-year premed at the University of Toronto (my God, we were only 18) and became lifelong friends. In 1972 we drove to Banff for summer employment. While there we both realized that the mountains were going to dominate our future. Amazingly, we navigated the intern matching service and were both accepted into the rotating intern program at St. Paul’s Hospital. We also discovered Whistler.

Our first job after St. Paul’s took us to the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Emergency Department. Two summers of Vernon, multiple locums, and extended travel led Rob to inquire about a job as physician with the Whistler Mountain ski patrol. My advice was, take it! He quickly learned that mountain medicine was much different than that in the confines of a hospital, and he thrived. He spent time with the orthopod Dr Pat McConkey and honed his physical diagnostic skills in sports medicine. Rob often complained that he felt bad having his patients pay for an MRI of their knee when he had already given them their diagnosis.

In the early 1980s, Rob, along with Dr Christine Rodgers, offered full family practice services out of an ATCO trailer. The medicine was never boring and was often carried out in challenging outdoor settings. Rob joined an energetic community and worked to expand Whistler’s health care facilities to the high standard that is provided today.

Rob gave a lot to the mountain community and the mountain community gave a lot to Rob. He relished the opportunities offered to him. Whether it was as physician to the National Alpine Ski Team or physician guide to various heli-ski companies, all parties benefited.

A few years ago, Rob gave up his family practice but was unable to give up on his community. He continued to be busier than ever with locums and his aviation physicals. He regretted having to give up a COVID vaccine clinic following his diagnosis. His friends and community have been widely supportive following his passing.

To a man well loved and a life well lived. We will all miss you, Rob.
—William Akeroyd, MD


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William Akeroyd, MD. Dr Robert Douglas Burgess, 1950–2021. BCMJ, Vol. 64, No. 1, January, February, 2022, Page(s) 36-37 - Obituaries.

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