Dr. Will Cawkell (left) with Betty Fraser

Dr. Will Cawkell (left) with Betty Fraser

Cawkell hangs up his stethoscope

As Dr. Will Cawkell looks back on 43 years of practice in Lumby and Vernon, he sees that a lot has changed but a lot has stayed the same.

“People of the area have always had access to first-rate medical care up to the standards of the day but there have been many changes in medications and equipment. Now we can give much more complex care to patients in the hospital here,” he said.  “There have also been changes in the relationships between the medical personnel. When I first arrived, when doctors came to the nursing station the nurses stood up. The doctors wore white coats and the nurses were in white uniforms.”

He sees that there is more of a team approach to care now and that patients stay in the hospital for a shorter time. When he first came to Vernon, there was not an intensive care unit in the hospital.

“There have been a lot of fascinating things happen. I don’t think we have as many horrendous industrial accidents as there were 40 years ago. And everyone used to have a family doctor. I found family medicine was a natural for me. I was able to do a lot of things: maternity, emergency room, some surgery and some anesthesia. A general practitioner was truly general,” said Cawkell.

“The last two weeks of my practice have been very emotional for me. I’ve had some patients for 40 years or more and really got to know them. They have been coming by with some wonderful cards and gifts to say good-bye. It’s been a wonderful career.”

Cawkell grew up in Toronto and was considering a career in the priesthood after he finished his first degree at the University of Toronto. He spent a year in Europe and came back to the University of Toronto for his medical training and married Diane, a nurse, when he graduated. He did his internship in Chicago, then he and Diane spent two years working for Care Medical in Algeria and Malaysia. So far from Canada, they kept running into people who suggested they move to the Okanagan Valley.

They visited, liked the small town atmosphere, the lakes, sports — Cawkell is an avid hockey player — and raised their four children here. They are looking forward to visiting their four grandchildren, travel, and golf, and he is going to keep playing hockey.