Show of re­spect

Hun­dreds at­tend me­mo­rial for Dr. Bert Kelly

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Stu­art NEATBY Cit­i­zen staff sneatby@pgc­i­t­i­

An es­ti­mated 700 for­mer pa­tients, physi­cians, med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and friends gath­ered at the Prince Ge­orge Civic Cen­tre Fri­day evening to com­mem­o­rate the life of a key leader in north­ern B.C.’s fight for health­care.

Al­bert Scott Kelly, bet­ter known to pa­tients as Dr. Kelly, lived most of his adult life as a fam­ily physi­cian in the north. As speaker af­ter speaker re­counted, Kelly played an in­stru­men­tal role in the es­tab­lish­ment of the North­ern Med­i­cal Pro­gram at UNBC and the es­tab­lish­ment of the B.C. Can­cer Cen­tre for the North. He was per­haps the most well known po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cate for med­i­cal ser­vices in north­ern B.C. Kelly passed away Dec. 12, 2017.

Granville Johnston, who was a pa­tient of Dr. Kelly’s for al­most 25 years, drove in with his wife from Sin­clair Mills to at­tend the me­mo­rial event. He re­mained a pa­tient of Kelly’s af­ter mov­ing away from Prince Ge­orge years ago, and con­tin­ued to make the hour-long drive for ap­point­ments. Johnston said it was Kelly’s unique man­ner as a physi­cian that en­deared him to so many peo­ple.

“He made peo­ple feel like they were a friend, rather than a pa­tient and a doc­tor,” Johnston said.

“That feel­ing was in­stilled in everything he did as a doc­tor when he was train­ing.”

De­van Reddy, a fam­ily physi­cian who had known Kelly for 10 years, said Kelly’s bed­side man­ner was dif­fer­ent from the fast-paced, dig­i­tal style of medicine that has be­come com­mon in some busy prac­tices.

“He had a way of in­ter­min­gling the fast-paced ac­tiv­ity and at the same time com­ing across as be­ing a friend. Now that’s a skill set you can’t teach at med­i­cal school,” Reddy said.

“So he was not just an amaz­ing physi­cian, but he was also a hum­ble, in­spir­ing hu­man be­ing.”

The evening me­mo­rial opened with a bag­pipe pro­ces­sion, a nod to Kelly’s back­ground as an im­mi­grant from Glas­gow, Scot­land. Speak­ers at the me­mo­rial in­cluded Prince Ge­orge-Vale­mount MLA Shirley Bond, North­ern Health CEO Cathy Ul­rich, NMP founder Ge­off Payne, NMP dean Paul Win­wood and Kelly’s daugh­ter Joanna Kelly.

Bond af­fec­tion­ately re­ferred to Kelly as a ‘peb­ble in my shoe,’ a ref­er­ence to her be­ing the sub­ject of his per­sis­tent po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy. Kelly would of­ten de­liver a speech, known as the ‘Kelly re­port,’ at the an­nual Bob Ew­ert Me­mo­rial Din­ner, a fundrais­ing event for the North­ern Med­i­cal Pro­grams Trust. Kelly would out­line both the achieve­ments and the short­com­ings of lo­cal politi­cians when it came to med­i­cal needs in the north.

“I ad­mit that I was al­ways filled with fear and trep­i­da­tion prior to re­ceiv­ing the re­port. But as I re­flect on my re­la­tion­ship with Bert Kelly, I can tell you to­day that I am grate­ful for the lessons I have learned,” Bond said in a speech.

Kelly played a sig­nif­i­cant role, along with many mem­bers of the com­mu­nity in Prince Ge­orge, in or­ga­niz­ing a sto­ried rally of 6,000 res­i­dents at CN Cen­tre in June of 2000. The rally aided in bring­ing about a $10 mil­lion dol­lar health ser­vices agree­ment with the then-NDP gov­ern­ment, and pro­vided mo­men­tum for the even­tual es­tab­lish­ment of the North­ern Med­i­cal Pro­gram.

Aside from Kelly’s role as a com­mu­nity ac­tivist and ag­i­ta­tor, he was also re­mem­bered as a med­i­cal teacher and men­tor.

Taya O’Neill stud­ied un­der Kelly as a first-year stu­dent, and later grad­u­ated from the North­ern Med­i­cal Pro­gram. She re­mem­bered that Kelly would of­ten lead stu­dent dis­cus­sions of pa­tient care and po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy over brunch at Nancy O’s restau­rant on Third Ave.

“It didn’t mat­ter if you had an exam com­ing up, or had just got off a sleep­less on-call shift. You made it to those brunches be­cause you knew he would in­spire you, and that your pas­sion for health­care would be re­fu­eled,” O’Neill said.

Friends and col­leagues have es­tab­lished a legacy fund in Bert Kelly’s name to sup­port health education in north­ern B.C. Those in­ter­ested in do­nat­ing, or in find­ing out more about this fund, can visit or call 250-562-7772.


Joanna Kelly speaks at her fa­ther Dr. Bert Kelly’s Cel­e­bra­tion of Life on Fri­day at the Prince Ge­orge Civic Cen­tre. Dr. Kelly, a long­time ad­vo­cate for health­care in the north, passed away on Dec. 12.


Piper Dr. Don­ald MacRitchie en­ters the Dr. Bert Kelly Cel­e­bra­tion of Life on Fri­day at the Civic Cen­tre.

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