After 42 years, Dr. Ron Clark is hanging up his stethoscope.
The Fernie doctor has been a staple at the Elk Valley Hospital since he arrived in 1979 from Moose Jaw where he worked for two years as a doctor, and over those years, he’s seen a lot.
“I’m a family doctor in rural Canada which means that we do everything. I started out looking after children, delivering babies, looking after geriatrics, sports medicine, ski injuries … and I did anesthetics at the hospital for operations.”
Dr. Clark has been chief of staff at the hospital for the last 12 years, and filled the role before then. He’s had a hand in hiring, training, and mentoring medical staff – many of whom still live and work in Fernie and call the Elk Valley home.
He’s seen a lot of changes as well, and through his position as chief of staff, fought a lot of battles.
“One of the things I really worked hard at over the time I have been here is to keep our hospital functioning as a place where women can come in and have babies, where people can be sick and know that they’re going to be looked after.
“It’s hard to keep a small hospital like ours operating, doing surgery, delivering babies, keeping the sub-specialties … trying to keep a group in a small rural site and convince the administrators in Kelowna that we need to keep doing what we’re doing.
“It was a rare year I didn’t have to fight some battle to retain service in the Elk Valley. (It was )probably the single biggest useful thing I’ve done,” he said.
When asked if he thought his efforts over the years had been successful, Dr. Clark said the state of the hospital today spoke for itself.
“The lights are still on.”
In the 42 years he’s been serving the Elk Valley, Dr. Clark said he has enjoyed and appreciated the role he’d played in so many people’s lives.
“It’s always something different, and that’s the joy of family medicine in a small town.
“You wake up every day and you know you’re going to be challenged, you’re generally going to see something you’ve never seen before and you’re going to have to figure it out and decide how to make it better.
“There’s two things I really cherish – the first is looking after people from the second that they’re born until they grow up and grow old, and everything in between.
“There’s nothing like the magic of being present when a new life is being born, and the gratitude of being able to help somebody gradually ease away into the next life.”
While he’s stepping away from work, he’s not stepping away from the lifestyle of the valley. Like many of the doctors who have come to Fernie and the Elk Valley, he’s staying put – and said he’d set himself the goal of learning how to play golf over the coming summer.
Until then, it was a fond farewell to the many who he worked with, as well as to the many patients who had spent time in his care.
“Thank you for the trust that you’ve shown me over the years. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to look after each and every one of you.”
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