I N   M E M O R I A M
Former NLMA president passes away

Jonathan Carpenter Photo


Dr. Peter Roberts

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association is deeply saddened by the passing of
Dr. Peter Job Roberts. He died on April 29, 2008 at the age of 63.

By Jonathan Carpenter

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Peter Job Roberts. He died on April 29, 2008 at the age of 63. Dr. Roberts devoted his life to the provision of health care in the province, serving the International Grenfell Association and Grenfell Regional Health Services for twenty-three years.

Born in 1944 in St. John’s, Peter was the son of Mary Katharine (Moxon) and Dr. Harry Roberts. Medicine was a tradition in Peter’s family. His father, his only uncle and most of their siblings and cousins were doctors or nurses.

He first earned bachelors and master’s degrees in history from the University of New Brunswick. He then went on to Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, where he completed his medical degree in 1973. That year, following an internship at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, Peter retuned home to join the International Grenfell Association as a community health doctor in Roddickton.

He was soon appointed Medical Officer in the town’s Community Health Centre, where he served in solo medical practice until 1975. He then moved to St. Anthony to become the director of community medicine at the Curtis Memorial Hospital in charge of the general administration of seventeen clinics, nursing stations and health centres throughout Northern Newfoundland and Labrador. From 1975 to 1977 he also served as the Traveling Doctor for southern Labrador and conducted medical clinics in the communities of Mary’s Harbour, Port Hope Simpson and Charlottetown.

In 1979, Dr. Roberts was appointed Executive Director of the International Grenfell Association. In this position, he was responsible for the operations of an organization which employed 800 people and provided integrated regional health services for 32,000 people. Sir Wilfred Grenfell was the first to hold the position. Peter, the fifth and last to hold it, was the first and only Newfoundlander to do so.

Dr. Roberts was also involved in establishing the first Grenfell Regional Health Services Board and was responsible for overseeing the transition from the International Grenfell Association to Grenfell Regional Health Services in 1981. During his term as Executive Director, some of his achievements included an increase in the number of medical staff positions, the establishment of new dental positions and the development of an improved patient transportation service, involving scheduled carriers, chartered aircraft and GRHS owned aircraft. During this time, three GRHS health centres in Roddickton, Flower’s Cove and Forteau became the first in Canada to receive accreditation.

Peter worked in Northern Newfoundland and Labrador for all his professional life. He influenced, supported and nurtured health service delivery towards better health for people within communities, nursing stations and health centres, hospitals and long-term care facilities.

He was also instrumental in forming the Grenfell Foundation, the official fundraising organization for the former GRHS, and today, for Labrador-Grenfell Health. In more recent years, he founded the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, a registered charity that builds and manages charitable funds for businesses, organizations, families and individuals. It distributes the income as grants to many of the humanitarian, educational, health and cultural charities in this province.

Dr. Roberts served as President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association in 1990. He was also actively involved with various committees of the NLMA, the Newfoundland Hospital Association, and Memorial University, where he served as a clinical assistant professor of family practice. Dr. Roberts retired from Grenfell Regional Health Services in 1996.

He is described by his colleagues as a rural physician, social activist and a strong community leader with firm conviction. He systematically built on Sir Wilfred Grenfell’s foundation of serving people where they lived, with the best resources available to them. He became a medical doctor simply because he was committed to helping people with a passion and vision for life in service of others.

“Peter Roberts one was one of the truly great medical leaders of our time,” says friend and colleague, Dr. Ann Colbourne. “He led by the vision of developing and improving health services throughout northern Newfoundland and Labrador. Peter was ethical, moral and humble. He understood the concept of service and he led by example.”

Dr. Roberts was also richly blessed with a wide range of talents and skills. He was a boat builder, who took great pride in building his 45-foot steel-hulled brigantine Down North, after first teaching himself welding, carpentry and sail-making. A skilled painter and print-maker, he took great pleasure in recording the coastal scenery of Newfoundland and Labrador. An exhibition of his oil paintings, “The Lure of the Lighthouse”, was held in 1985 in Corner Brook. He also established the Grenfell Historical Society’s role in the region and the Grenfell Interpretation Centre was constructed during his term as Chair of Grenfell Development, Inc.

Peter leaves to mourn his wife, Betty Badcock and his brothers Edward (Eve) and Douglas and their families.



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