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Order of Canada for Dr. John Lewis


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Dr. John Lewis, C.M., M.D. C.M.

John F. Lewis, C.M., M.D. C.M., was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada on October 23, 2008 for his contributions to health care and health education at the local and provincial levels and for his role in establishing many essential community-based medical services at home and abroad.

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John F. Lewis, C.M., M.D. C.M., was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada on October 23, 2008 for his contributions to health care and health education at the local and provincial levels and for his role in establishing many essential community-based medical services at home and abroad. There will be an awards ceremony later this year in Ottawa for the presentation of this honour.

Dr. Cheri Bethune, who nominated him for the award, said Dr. Lewis is a noteworthy individual predominantly because of his commitment to people. She noted that two remarkable examples of Dr. Lewis’ capacity to be both visionary and pragmatic are in his work in the Shea Heights community on the outskirts of St. John’s Newfoundland. ”This economically deprived community arose as a shanty town on a cliff outside the major port city. Dr. Lewis worked with the local priest, Father Shea and several community activists to bring essential health care services to this community. He started a clinic in the school classroom and then lobbied for further resources. This community emerged from health indices that paralleled the third world to Canadian standards within 10 years of the inception of the clinic. Thirty-five years later his model of interprofessional primary health care is a model of practice that most envy. His compassion and vision in working with the community is fondly remembered by the elders.”

Dr. Lewis also brought his notion of service to his role as a faculty member in the Discipline of Medicine. “Along with the late Dr. John Ross, O.C., he built an award-winning family medicine training program that first and foremost addressed the health care needs of the province of Newfoundland,” said Dr. Bethune. “It was unique in its delivery as the ‘laboratory for learning’ for students was the small communities across the island. This program was visionary in 1970 and many similar training programs have used this as a model. Memorial University retains this reputation as training the most well prepared rural doctors in Canada.”

Dr. Lewis taught and wrote about reflective practice. “He lectured about evidence-based medicine long before it became de rigueur and he constantly challenged students, colleagues and himself about how to practice most effectively.”

Dr. Lewis acts locally but also thinks globally in his commitment to the people of Africa, said Dr. Bethune. “He worked as a physician in Tanzania early in his career and several of his children were born there. He returned again to Africa after his retirement from the university to serve again both in Uganda and Kenya.”

Dr. Lewis was honoured by his peers in his nomination for the Murray Stalker Award of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, which is the most prestigious award given by this national body recognizing exemplary commitment to family medicine.

Dr. Bethune said Dr. Lewis recently returned from what he claims is his last sojourn to Africa; although many faculty members doubt his retirement. “He will likely continue to provide wonderful locum tenens service to rural communities across Newfoundland for the next few years. This allows him to indulge in his other passions that include cross-country skiing, fly fishing and story telling.”

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