May 14, 2019 4:04 pm
Updated: May 14, 2019 7:33 pm

Cape Breton family physician passes away, leaving behind a legacy of dedication to patients

June 15th would have marked Murdock’s 50th year of practicing medicine.

June 15th would have marked Murdock’s 50th year of practicing medicine.

Doctors Nova Scotia
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A doctor in Sydney, N.S., looks over the harbour, surrounded by photos of Dr. Murdock Arthur Smith, who passed away on Saturday after suffering from a brief illness.

“It’s tough being here,” said Dr. Chris Milburn, who has known Smith all his life.

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“He became a licensed doctor a month before I was born and he was my first family doctor,” said Milburn, who is the director of emergency medicine at Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union report says NSHA needs to educate public on emergency health system

He’s also temporarily filling in for Smith at Sydney Family Practice Centre.

He worked in the office two days before he died. He loved his job and his patients,” Milburn said. 

‘He actually died the way he wanted’

Smith developed heart arrhythmia on Thursday and found himself getting very short of breath. He was then hospitalized the next day.

June 15th would have marked Murdock’s 50th year of practicing medicine.

“He actually died the way he wanted to die with his boots on. He wanted to be working and when he went, he wanted to go very quickly,” said Dr. Glenn Gracie, who has been working with Smith for the last 44 years.

Smith graduated from Dalhousie Medical School in 1969 and also taught there.

He was the president of Doctors Nova Scotia about 20 years ago and he “at least once” was the family physician of the year in Nova Scotia, “which really means something because there are hundreds of physicians,” said Milburn.

Improving access to healthcare

He’s described as “a pillar of Cape Breton’s medical community” by Doctors Nova Scotia.

“He put patients first and he was involved with a lot of things that had to do with the healthcare system,” said Gracie.

“He wanted better access for patients to doctors and he would train residents to get patients into the office within a reasonable amount of time,” he added.

Smith was Gracie’s family physician and Gracie was his.

READ MORE: Canadian health care stuck in the ’60s, expert says

We looked out for each other,” he said.

Gracie believes his colleague has left a legacy of care.

“He was easygoing, easy to talk to — people are going to miss his easygoing manner. I’ve worked with him for 44 years; I’ve never, ever seen him get flustered,” Gracie said.

‘He was very calm and extremely resilient’

“Any situation that ever happened, he handled it very calmly,” he added.

Smith died at the age of 79 and not once did he think of retiring.

“Being a doctor is a wonderful job in many ways, but it’s also very emotionally difficult. You literally have people’s lives in your hands, so a lot of doctors look forward to retirement,” said Milburn.

“But Murdock was somebody who was invested in the profession. He was very calm and extremely resilient.”

Smith rarely went on vacation and he always looked forward to working to help others.

He’s survived by his wife of 50 years, his four children and many grandchildren.

WATCH: Provincial government hammered on healthcare at Fall sitting’s first Question Period (September 2018)

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