Dr. Giles Stevenson. (Photo - Northern Health)

Retired Prince Rupert radiologist receives Distinguished Career Award

Dr. Giles Stevenson said his love for the North Coast B.C. community kept him working

Retired Prince Rupert radiologist Dr. Giles Stevenson, received the Distinguished Career Award from the Canadian Association of Radiology on April 13, an honour he said came as a total surprise.

The award honours individuals who have made significant contributions to radiology in Canada over the course of their careers. Dr. Stevenson said had it not been for the staff at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital he would have retired long before he did.

Speaking to The Northern View from his home in Victoria, Dr. Stevenson said the years he spent in Prince Rupert were the crowning moments of his 50-year career in radiology.

“I felt it was somewhat of a privilege to work in the hospital. It is such a warm, friendly place and it was a real pleasure to work there,” Stevenson said.

He finally hung up his coat in December last year, retiring from the hospital to devote time to his family and one of his favourite pastimes, golf.

“It came as quite a surprise – I’m 80 years old this year. I now joke that it’s my longevity award,” Stevenson said.

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He received the award at the annual meeting of Canadian radiologists in Montreal, which he attended along with his wife and his son who drove up from Toronto for the occasion.

“There were half a dozen people of my vintage and a whole lot of people who didn’t look like they were old enough to be radiologists,” he joked.

The Association awarded Stevenson for a number of achievements, including teaching medical students since 1976, authoring more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and 42 book chapters and winning multiple awards while in Canada.

Born and raised in England, Stevenson studied at Oxford University and trained at Guy’s Hospital in central London, the same hospital his father trained in.

He worked in England for 12 years before coming to Canada in 1972. He worked in Dawson Creek for a year and then travelled to Japan where he studied for six months in his specialty.

In 1974 he returned to England with his wife, Ilse, resigning himself to settling down.

“We couldn’t settle down, though. We were restless, eager to cut our roots and return to Canada,” Stevenson said.

He wrote to all the medical schools in Canada, finally receiving an invitation for a job interview in London, Ont.

However, fate intervened — on the way to the interview, the family were forced to debus in Hamilton, Ont. – the road to London was under two feet of snow.

He phoned up a radiologist he had met who lived in Hamilton, who introduced him to his superiors at McMaster University Medical Centre – by the end of the day Stevenson was offered a job at the facility.

He worked at McMaster for 25 years, raising three children with Ilse, before he retired from his teaching post in 2000 at the age of 60.

“We had always liked B.C., so I started hunting for a job there,” said Stevenson, looking to get back into industry.

The family eventually moved to Duncan, where he worked for seven years until his second retirement at age 67.

He had performed a number of locums in Prince Rupert and Cranbrook — when he retired he decided to focus his attention on Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

Stevenson and his partner in Duncan decided they would alternate shifts, each flying up to Terrace to work for two-week stretches.

“We liked the atmosphere at the hospital. Both the medical and nursing staff were terrific,” he said.

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The most satisfying aspect of working at the hospital, though, was his working relationship with surgeon Dr. Philip Nel, an expert endoscopist.

“He was a fantastic colleague – the time I spent working alongside him was definitely the professional highlight of my career,” said Stevenson.

Endoscopy had become a big part of his career, and he appreciated the opportunity to learn from Nel, a specialist in the use of endoscopy in the treatment of bile ducts.

He said the technological advances in radiography had occurred at a head-spinning pace, especially following the introduction of computers in the specialty.

“There was an explosion of new technology over a 20-year period. In that time nine completely new imaging methods were invented. Now computers have completely revolutionized and totally transformed the specialty.

“X-rays are no longer getting lost in the trunk of a car. Now with electronic images, the patient can be sitting in Kitimat and the radiographer [can be] in Prince Rupert.”

Since his third retirement, Stevenson still keeps in touch with the specialty by giving lectures or writing articles.

He said, however, that retirement has allowed him to focus on his golf, which he can now play all year round thanks to the weather in Victoria, as well as keep up with his children and four grandchildren.

His children, Robin Stevenson a successful writer who lives in Victoria, his son Toby who works in fraud prevention and his daughter Katrina, who is a trauma counsellor.

Asked what he misses most about working up in the north – the people, the hospitality, the tranquility of his apartment at the Highliner, supper with folks at the various restaurants in Prince Rupert, and making trips up to Stewart and Haida “on the six or seven days of continuous sunshine.”

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