Dr. Tony Ho Chen bids farewell to his family practice
When he first arrived in Pemberton as a young locum in 1991, Dr. Tony Ho Chen was amazed by the scenery and outdoor activities. Now, as he prepares for retirement and reflects back on more than 25 years there as a family practitioner, it is the people that stand out for him.
“I will miss my patients, my church community and all the wonderful people here. I love the diversity in Pemberton and the strong First Nations presence here. This is what Canada is all about.”
Dr. Ho Chen trained in South Africa and came to Pemberton via Newfoundland, where he worked for two years as a GP. His decision to retire from his family practice this month is based on a desire to be closer to his three children who now live in the Lower Mainland. He and his wife Teresa are moving there and Dr. Ho Chen plans to continue to work as a locum. A recent retirement party in Pemberton made it clear how much the community will miss them both.
“Tony went out of his way to make himself available to his patients and his colleagues,” said Dr. Jim Fuller, Local Medical Director, who was one of the speakers at the event. “He is so competent and experienced and willing to share that knowledge with his younger colleagues. I’ve called on him many times when I needed help in the Emergency Department. It didn’t matter the time of day or night, he would always step-up.”
Jeannie Faryna was Dr. Ho Chen’s Medical Office Assistant (MOA) for 19 years, working closely with Teresa Ho Chen who served as her husband’s Office Manager since he opened the practice.
“He is an amazing man,” Jeannie said. “A true small town doctor, always there for his patients. In all the years I worked for him I never knew of him taking a lunch break or a sick day. He didn’t think twice about making house calls and even drove patients home from the Emergency Department if they didn’t have a ride.”
Jeannie is also quick to highlight Teresa’s role. “Mrs. Ho Chen was the backbone of this office. She came in every day. In the early days of his practice they even worked Saturdays and she would come in, often with a baby, to cover as the MOA so I could have a day off. There have been a lot of hugs and tears these past two weeks as patients have come in to say goodbye.”
As Dr. Ho Chen prepares for the next phase of his life in Vancouver, he is appreciative of all the support he received in Pemberton. “Vancouver Coastal Health has been very supportive of rural physicians, I am grateful for this. I have also been fortunate to have worked with an amazing community of health care and emergency service providers, including the RCMP, paramedics, social workers, medical imaging technologists and so many others. I am especially appreciative of my physician colleagues, who will continue to care for the patients and community that have meant so much to me. Of course, I couldn’t have done anything without my incredible wife Teresa who has been with me from the start, and my wonderful MOAs, Ann and Jeannie.”
During his time in Pemberton, Dr. Ho Chen has brought babies into this world, cared for them as they grew up and then delivered their babies. This multi-generational “cradle to grave” approach to care is what family practice is all about. While they will be missed, Dr. Ho Chen and his wife Teresa have left a legacy of compassion and commitment that will continue to serve the community of Pemberton for many more years.