PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — Prince George and Northern BC are mourning the loss of a great in the medical profession. Dr. Bert Kelly passed away Tuesday night in Kelowna following a brave and dignified battle with cancer.
“What he did for the province and the people of Northern BC overall was just remarkable,” says Dr. Michael Moran. “He'll be sadly missed.”
It was during a health care rally in June of 2000 that Dr. Kelly showed his true passion for health care in the North, putting government on notice about the needs of Northern BC. That rally led to the creation of the Northern Medical Program at UNBC, which saw its first intake of student in 2005.
“I saw him as not only as an incredible physician, but he was a pretty savvy politician. He knew how to get things done,” says Shirley Bond, who calls the annual Kelly Report at the Bob Ewert Memorial Dinner was typically “terrifying.”
“And I fondly came to know him as the pebble in my shoe; one of those people who remind you every day that you have a job to do and you better do it well, or you will be held accountable for it.”
But Dr. Bert Kelly was not about to rest on his laurels with the successful NMP. Next was the pursuit of cancer care in the North. And the BC Cancer Agency's Centre for the North has just passed its five anniversary.
“I went round to see him and we had some very long and frank discussions and I said to him, 'You know, of all the things you've done, what are the ones you're most proud of?' The first thing he said was 'The Northern Medical Program. Making that happen.' He said that allowed us to build on all the other things,” says Dr. Dave Snadden with the Northern Medical Program. In fact, he was the NMP's first hire, something he attributes in large part to Dr. Kelly. “I have very fond memories of what he did for us.”
Physician recruitment and retention, the Northern Medical Program and the Cancer Centre for the North are just a few notable mentions. He also played a large role in establishing laboratory technology and radiology programs at the College of New Caledonia and also advocated for the establishment of the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North in Prince George. But that was the last on his wish list.
“Bert had the vision I don't think many people have and he pushed that. And he accomplished everything,” says Dr. Moran. “The last thing he wanted was for a surgical tower, a new hospital for the North. Hopefully that is coming.”
Over the last year, Dr. Kelly's health deteriorated and forced him to close his General Practitioner practice in Prince George. Family friend and colleague Dr. Michelle Sutter, says Dr. Bert Kelly passed away peacefully with his family at his side.
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