Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 59,
January, February 2017,
page(s) 14 Obituaries
, Paul Mitenko, MD
Dr Herbert C. Welch was born in Victoria, BC, on 9 May 1925, but moved with his family up island to Qualicum Beach at a young age. He started working early in life, and later worked every summer with his father’s logging company.
Upon graduating from high school Herb was accepted into UBC in a science course. During his third year at UBC he applied to various medical schools and was tentatively accepted at the University of Oregon, to start upon graduation from UBC. However, always a determined individual, Herb presented himself to Oregon Medical School prior to his fourth year and asked if an opening was available for him. He was turned away initially, but he was called back 2 weeks later and accepted into the medical school.
Herb had fallen in love while at UBC, and after his first year of medical school he asked Joan Teeportan-Fraser to be his wife and to join him in Portland. Joan was a lab assistant and worked in the hospital while Herb studied and finished his degree. They made many wonderful friendships there and even found some time to travel to the California coast where they discovered their life-long delight in meeting new people and facing new adventures.
Herb graduated from the University of Oregon in 1950. He interned at Vancouver General Hospital, which is where he found his talent in diagnosis. He thrived in the medical environment and, using his curious and questioning mind to improve medical methods and approaches, he discovered medicine to be a continually evolving science that he enjoyed fully. He found his postgraduate years to be particularly exciting as he realized that the areas of diagnosis and treatment were undergoing a revolutionary change. With this Herb became immersed in the art and science of medicine.
After his internship Herb, Joan, and their new young daughter set sail for London, England, where he would continue his medical training. This additional year exposed him to a level of clinical medicine he had not appreciated before, and provided him with greater knowledge and experience.
After a period in general practice, he made the decision to do specialty training in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Herb finished his residency in 1959 and returned to Nanaimo, where he opened the first office in Nanaimo that offered a specialty practice in internal medicine. At the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital he created the Intensive Care Unit, improved other medical initiatives, served as a president of the Medical Society, and had time for outside activities—of note, becoming president of the North-West Society of General Internal Medicine. He also served his community through several voluntary and service organizations.
Herb and Joan raised their three children—Marla, Meryl, and John—in Nanaimo and immersed them in many activities. They formed many close friendships in Nanaimo and elsewhere, and it is especially remembered that newcomers to our town were provided with a continued welcome at the Welchs’ as they found their way.
Herb worked hard to improve his patients’ care until his retirement in 1995, and he had continuing support and interest for his community and profession. Just after Herb’s retirement, Joan fell ill to a long and disabling disease. Herb cared for her at home with love and expertise until she passed away in 2011. He managed to keep his family and friends close, never failing to provide Joan with entertainment by taking her to the theatre or hosting dinners. He found time to write his memoirs, and recounted many adventures and anecdotes of medicine and life.
Dr Welch had an interesting and varied life, full of incredible medical stories, travel experiences, close family relationships, and many lifelong adventures. He left this world in October 2015 but not without a legacy of lives nurtured, encouraged, and healed, and love for his wife, children, and seven grandsons. He was a peerless example of wisdom and encouragement for all who knew him.
—Paul Mitenko, MD