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Port Coquitlam doctor leaves 'love letter' to patients days before he dies

Letter written before Dr. Ian Woods enters hospice shared widely by Burke Mountain Medical Centre, prompting patients to express their feelings and "kudos" to the long-time physician.
Dr. Ian Woods Burke Mountain Medical Centre
Dr. Ian Woods, of Burke Mountain Medical Centre in Port Coquitlam, passed away recently.

A veteran doctor who worked at a Port Coquitlam medical clinic has left hundreds of patients grieving after he passed away just two weeks after retiring.

Dr. Ian Woods, who worked for 45 years and was a physician at Burke Mountain Medical Centre in PoCo, died peacefully at a North Vancouver hospice on Sept. 29 — 16 days after his retirement, according to the centre's website.

In a Sept. 13 letter to his patients, Dr. Woods regretted that he was not able to provide more notice of his immediate retirement. 

But his illness had spread to the point where he was in pain and had to enter hospice for "specific care of my end-stage disease."

For the past year, Woods had assisted patients while dealing with pancreatic cancer, which had undergone a "dramatic and sudden reversal" despite chemotherapy, forcing him into hospice.

'How can I help you?'

"At this point, I have no choice than to accept the fact that my fight to still be here and to provide my patients with primary care is over," Dr. Woods wrote.

"The changes have taken place so quickly that I have unfortunately not had time to warn you precisely about my retirement. As of today, I am officially retiring from family practice."

In the letter, he goes on to thank his patients for their love and support, and he asks that his mantra, "How can I help you?" be shared with others to "enrich" their relationships.

On a Kudoboard, dozens of patients and fellow physicians are writing about their grief, noting Dr. Woods' caring manner and help during challenging times.

Dr. Woods was also an outspoken critic of the lack of testing in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a story in the Tri-City News.

At the time, children were returning to school and doctors' offices were stretched to capacity to assist patients during global restrictions.

Doctor of the Year title

Dr. Woods' care and compassion for others prompted his colleagues to honour him with the prestigious Family Doctor of the Year award at the annual general meeting of the Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice in 2021.

There is no immediate successor to Dr. Woods, and patients are encouraged to seek another family doctor.

Still, short-term support is offered to his patients through virtual appointments with a Burke Mountain clinic doctor.

Dr. Woods' passing comes as there is an acute shortage of family physicians in B.C. and the Tri-Cities. Patients can join a waitlist, which states that it could take nearly a year to find a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

'Well, Doc, it had to end one day': colleague

In his letter, Dr. Woods said he appreciated the support he received over the years, especially during his illness.

"I cannot say enough in regards to the respect and honour that you have paid to me by your trust placed in me to guide you and your family in terms of their healthcare. I love the genuine rapport and love that many of you have shown me, not just over the many years, but especially over the last year as you have prayed and cared for my well-being," Dr. Woods wrote.

His patients and fellow doctors were unstinting in their praise on the online website Kudoboard, where Woods is described as the "Silver Fox."

"Well doc we knew it had to end one day and so it did. Four years of medical school together, another year of interning together, then 33 years of practicing together. We began with a vision of care for patients that you maintained to the end. Rest in peace partner your job here is done," wrote Dr. James Mason.

Others spoke about Dr. Woods' positive experience in their lives, including one writer who thanked him for being in their MuchMusic video.

Many cited Dr. Woods' ability to listen and provide support in challenging times.

A patient wrote, "After speaking with you, I always felt heard, and felt stronger, more hopeful, uplifted and resilient. This is in addition to the wonderful healthcare that you provided."

Another patient wrote, "My heart is broken that I won’t see that cheery face next time I visit the office, it will never be the same. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people but you are the best of the best."

On its website, the Burke Mountain Medical Centre said it would post information about funeral arrangements when they become available.



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