Peninsula physician Dr. J. Alan Pretty – well known in the community from his more than 40 years at White Rock’s Hilltop Medical Clinic – has died at the age of 73.
Pretty, who had recently retired, was also chief of medical staff at Peace Arch Hospital for 15 years in the 1970s and 1980s.
He passed away Aug. 1 at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, after a short battle with glioblastoma, the same form of cancer that claimed the life of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie.
A graduate of the UBC medical school in 1970, Pretty also studied internal medicine at Vancouver General Hospital and also chest medicine in Scotland.
He settled in White Rock in 1973 after a brief locum in the community for Dr. Grant Gibbings, who had sustained injuries in a serious small-plane crash.
In an email to Peace Arch News, former PAH Society board chair Tom Kirstein – chartered accountant, former White Rock mayor and a longtime family friend – described Pretty as “one of the brightest people I ever met, always inquisitive, always on a quest for knowledge, and always seeking to improve the health of those around him.”
Kirstein noted that Pretty travelled frequently in later years to the hospital in Hay River, NWT, where he served as a locum. He also encouraged other doctors he mentored to participate in that hospital, as well as travel with him on many trips to provide care in underprivileged regions of South America, for which he learned Spanish – although somewhat hampered by the many regional accents and colloquialisms.
Hilltop Medical manager Yvonne McLeod commented that Pretty, in addition to being “a brilliant physician” was also a pioneer in adopting fully computerized electronic medical records at the clinic in 1978, while most other offices were still using paper medical records.
“Alan took a keen interest in the advantages computers could bring to the medical office and took the lead role to revolutionize Hilltop Medical Clinic with this now common practice in medical clinics,” she told PAN by email.
“(He) will be missed dearly by all of those he worked with at the clinic over the years – he was highly respected for not only his clinic skills but also his business acumen and kind heart.”
Colleague Dr. Sonia Singh also paid tribute to Pretty.
“(He) was never one to accept the status quo; as a born leader he was always looking for a better way to do things,” she said by email.
“As chief of the medical staff at PAH, he steered the medical staff and administration away from conflict and adversarial relationships towards mutual respect and collaboration – his leadership changed the tone of medical staff meetings.”
Pretty was “often the first to offer help covering for shifts in the ER, reaching out to connect with new physicians and doing whatever was needed to ensure that patients were taken care of,” Singh added.
“Those who knew him well describe Alan as a man whose interest in life, his friends and family, was never ending – his was a mind that rarely slowed down.
“Throughout his own illness, his mind was always working, asking questions, keeping up with current news events, concerned about his friends’ and family’s well-being. He was very much a part of our lives right to the end and he will be greatly missed.”
Pretty is survived by Joan, his wife of 47 years, their son Drew and daughter Katie and their spouses and two grandchildren.
A celebration of life is to be announced at a later date.