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Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre physician hangs up his speculum after 40 years

Dr. Justice Arthur is moving to Ghana and the United Kingdom, but plans to return for visits.
Dr. Justice Arthur is moving to Ghana and the United Kingdom, but plans to return for visits. - Submitted

Dr. Justice Arthur made an impact over his 19 years in practice and as chief of staff at local hospital

BURIN, N.L. — Since 1999 Dr. Justice Arthur has welcomed many newborns at the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre.

Arthur has worked as gynecologist and obstetrician at the hospital for 19 years, 18 of them as chief of staff.

Arthur, who has been practicing for 40 years, received his medical degree in his native country of Ghana. He then decided he wanted to further his studies in another country so he and his family relocated to the United Kingdom.

“Ghana was part of the commonwealth, so the logical place to go was the U.K.,” Arthur explained. “It was easy for your credentials to be recognized.”

After receiving a gynecology fellowship, Arthur switched gears and pursued a law degree at the University of London. His plan was to practice medical law. However, once he received his degree, Arthur realized he enjoyed medicine more and decided to stay with gynecology and obstetrics.

Eager for another experience, Arthur and his wife Elizabeth — a registered nurse who also worked at the Burin Health Care Center until she retired in 2016 — thought that Canada might be fun a fun place to explore.

“Both Elizabeth and I trained and worked in the U.K. and raised a family so we planned to move to Canada for a few years as an adventure and go back to Ghana and set up a private practice,” Arthur said.

“We started looking and had a few offers, but the offer from N.L. was more attractive because there was an N.L. recruiter who spoke to Elizabeth before me and managed to charm his way. That’s how we ended up here.”

Special place

The Arthurs settled in Marystown and found rural Newfoundland to be a special place. They decided to continue building their careers in this province.

“We’ve worked in big cities in the U.K. and all over, but there was something unique about this place,” Arthur remarked. “It was rural, but you could practice medicine on a very high level. And you had patients that were easy to deal with and we liked the community and everything about it. There was no pressure of living in a big city, all the noise and travel and troublesome patients and all that.”

Arthur credits the people and the hospital as the draw that made them want to continue living and working here.

“Obviously people are very friendly and welcoming, and the hospital was so efficient and everyone was so helpful, we really enjoyed our stay,” he said. “We generally liked the peace and quiet of this place together with the friendliness of the people and the work was very pleasant.”

Family

The main challenge of working rurally for the couple was getting time off together with a limited amount of employees to take over both shifts at the hospital. The other issue was seeing their three kids and granddaughter too infrequently. The couple has a son named Ekow who is an information technologist in Madrid, Spain; a daughter named Bemah who practices law in London, England; and Joe, their youngest son, also is a doctor who lives in London.

They miss spending time their one-year-old granddaughter Sienna too.

“Our kids were more interested in living in urban areas rather than rural areas, they didn’t come here as often as we wanted them to,” Arthur lamented.

The Arthurs plan to split their time between Ghana and the U.K.

“Ghana because that’s where we come from and England because all our kids live in Europe,” Arthur said. “I am hoping that I will take a part time job in academia in Ghana and pass on some of the experiences I’ve acquired in my travels to the younger generation.”

Advancements

In 40 years of practice, Arthur has seen a lot of advancements in patient care.

“There’s a lot more technology now, so we can do a lot more for people,” Arthur stated. “When I first started things like CT scans and real time ultrasounds were in their infancy, so access to these things were limited.

“Now we have a lot more technology, CT, MRI, we have great images from real time ultrasound. Laparoscopic work, fibrotic technology — so there’s a lot more we can do for people,” he continued.

“That’s the biggest change, technology. IT tech has really made things more efficient. If a patient came from me and was treated in Ghana or Corner Brook, I can sit in my office and access what was done for them there. Information that makes life easier for us and for the patients.”

Mixed feelings

Arthur has mixed feelings about retiring.

“It’s a whole new stage of my life,” Arthur said. “I’ve been in this business for 40 years so I feel apprehensive, but at the same time I’m looking forward to having my own time back, spending more time with my granddaughter, Sienna and the children and doing the things I like to do, sports, music, travelling.

“I am also leaving some great friends behind, both professionally and outside the hospital. On the whole I’m looking forward to it.”

Kim Green, the hospital’s site manager, says staff and patients will miss Arthur as well.

“His leadership is something that we’ve grown fond of,” Green remarked. “He’s a very effective leader, but he is very gentle and very considerate in his leadership style. We’re certainly going to miss working with him.

“He’s part of our family and his wife as well; she came to work with us as a nurse. He considers himself just as much an Newfoundlander now as the rest of us, He’s been delivering babies here for 19 years as well and there’s not very many families that haven’t been touched by his care.”

Arthur has a message for the friends he made over the last 19 years.

“I’d like to say a big thank-you to everyone in and out of the hospital who made our stay very pleasant and looked out for us,” Arthur said. “Neighbors who helped us with snow clearing — like Newfoundlanders do — all the people who were so kind to us, we will come back and visit.”

Arthur's co-workers and friends are planning a retirement party for him on Friday, June 15, where many of the attendees can swap stories of experiencing his dedication, expertise, professionalism and friendly, funny, easy going demeanor.

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