N M E M O R I A M
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
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
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.