Praise for a pediatric pioneer — Dr. Richard Kennedy

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Dr. Richard Kennedy, born in Harbour Main, passed away April 11, 2014 at the age of 88 years. he was an extraordinary man who made numerous contributions to pediatric surgery and child health over his medical career which lasted for 45 years; 37 were spent in Newfoundland.

After graduating from McGill University medical school in 1951, he spent eight years training to be a general surgeon, urologist and pediatric surgeon in Montreal and the U.K.  He was the first fully trained pediatric surgeon in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 In 1958, on a visit to St. John’s, he was told that the province didn’t need a pediatric surgeon by the senior surgeon in the city. He came anyway (by boat in January 1959) in the middle of a snowstorm.

He quickly made his mark as a distinguished surgeon, educator and clinician in St. John’s and, with the help of the Sisters of Mercy, particularly Sister St. Clair, he started a modern pediatric surgical service on 7 West at St. Clare’s Hospital. This service brought the surgical care of children into the 20th century in this province, equal or better than the care provided in academic centres in Canada.

Kennedy was very supportive of the establishment of a free standing children’s hospital, the Janeway Child Health Centre, that opened in August 1966.

As chief of surgery at the Janeway, he established a first-class tertiary case surgical service that provided state-of-the-art care. He was instrumental in recruiting pediatric, cardiac and general surgeons to the hospital that broadened the excellent care already provided.

Kennedy was an astute clinician who took meticulous care of his patients, before, during and after surgery. He expected his junior staff and nurses to do the same and he was quick to admonish them if they didn’t measure up.

He was very loyal to his patients and their families and they accepted his sometimes blunt approach and loved him as a surgeon and physician to their children. I meet adults today who are very proud of the fact that Dr. Kennedy operated on them as children.

Kennedy was an outstanding teacher in the operating room, at the bedside and as a lecturer. He was a clinical professor at Memorial University’s medical school.  He had very high standards for the surgical care of children and expected the same from residents, staff and students.

Many of his resident physicians have gone onto distinguished careers in surgery including three who have become chiefs of pediatric surgery in British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. He was a founding member of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons.

Modern hospitals today have active programs to assess the quality of their care and Kennedy, from the beginning, ensured that active statistics were kept and that morbidity and mortality was discussed regularly in the monthly surgical meeting ensuring that the standard of surgical care was always up to date and appropriate. He was able to make significant improvements to the surgical service by his persistence and forceful personality.

Child health has come a long way in this province since 1950, and today the children of this province have a health care system that is modern, up to date and as good as or better than other centres in Canada.

Dr. Richard Kennedy, through his involvement with St. Clare’s and later the Janeway, made enormous contributions in the area of pediatric surgery, both as a skilled surgeon, a compassionate physician, a skilled administrator and an outstanding teacher.

To quote a colleague, “The children of this province will never know how much they owe Dr. Kennedy.”

That is his legacy.

 

A.R. Cooper, pediatrician

A.J. Davis, pediatrician

D.I. Price, pediatric surgeon

St. John’s

Organizations: Janeway Child Health Centre, McGill University, Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons.Modern

Geographic location: Clare, Montreal, U.K. British Columbia Alberta Newfoundland and Labrador Canada

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Recent comments

  • richard chiodo
    May 17, 2014 - 17:42

    rip uncle dick

  • Mary Adams
    May 05, 2014 - 08:42

    Dr Kennedy was a wonderful surgeon whose patients under his care certainly came first in his life. My sister's life from a toddler through to teenage years was cared for by Dr. Kennedy, when her life hung by a thread, the surgeries he performed brought her through many times. He wanted perfection & earned the respect of families & his staff most times followed by some off colour verbal remarks...no doubt he was a great Specialist. 15years ago after many years of not been under his care, Specialist from HSC had called him in relation to my sister. They went on in conversation & he remembered my sister & her condition, what he did in past years & was very interested in her now. He would be delighted to know she will be married 9 years in July & just recently celebrated her 58th Birthday. Many thanks to a very caring Surgeon who was determined to bring our sister through a difficult illness. God Bless you Dr. R. Kennedy, Rest Peacefully.

  • Joanie
    May 04, 2014 - 22:19

    I remember as a young nurse initially fearing Dr Kennedy with his tough exterior and his willingness to "tell you off" if he felt you were not doing your job at 110%. He loved his patients fearlessly and be damn with any hurt feelings. If you gave him as good as you got, he roared in laughter. Fabulous doctor who loved every one of his patients. RIP. You were a true testament to your profession.

  • Valerie
    May 04, 2014 - 21:46

    Rest in Peace, Dr. Kennedy.

  • Sarah Pittman
    May 04, 2014 - 21:40

    In 1977, Dr. Kennedy not only saved my life, he gave me a chance at life when I came into the world, by repairing my esophageal atresia. My journey with Dr. Kennedy continued through the years, with numerous fundoplications, hospitalizations and clinic visits, and in these most recent years, social visits and conversations. His skillful hands and medical wisdom have allowed me to live a healthy life. Dr. Kennedy's love, compassion and no-nonsense personality is an inspiration for us all!

  • Zita Williams
    May 04, 2014 - 18:36

    So sorry to hear of Dr Kennedy's passing, he did surgery on both my boys.He was a great Dr blunt and to the point.I stayed with my boys as they were both there the same time,he found me in their room early one morning and in such a stern voice said don't you have a home to go to.but I will be forever grateful to him.

  • Hede
    April 28, 2014 - 23:30

    I was quite saddened to hear the news of Dr Kennedy's passing. In1986 he performed life saving surgery on me as well. I remember now, even though I was a young child at the time, how determined he seemed to ensure I was getting the best care post-op. I was reunited with him just seven years ago in 2007 and had informed him I was an old patient. His face gleamed as he asked how I had been doing all these years since my surgery. He certainly had a passion for his career and was committed to providing the best care he could to his patients. Rest in peace Dr Kennedy, you built the foundation of exceptional paediatric care in this province.

  • Kelly
    April 18, 2014 - 15:23

    I myself was one of Dr. Kennedy's patients as a child. I remember loving him so much. I met him again 10 years ago while visiting the hospital as an adult. I wanted to speak to him and thank him, feeling rather foolish, as I had not scene this man in more than 35 years, amazingly, this wonderful, wonderful man, recognized me and knew my name after so many years. He always told me I was his favorite patient, although, I have a sneaky suspicion he told everyone that. Extremely grateful to have known such a compassionate individual.

  • Kelly
    April 18, 2014 - 15:22

    I myself was one of Dr. Kennedy's patients as a child. I remember loving him so much. I met him again 10 years ago while visiting the hospital as an adult. I wanted to speak to him and thank him, feeling rather foolish, as I had not scene this man in more than 35 years, amazingly, this wonderful, wonderful man, recognized me and knew my name after so many years. He always told me I was his favorite patient, although, I have a sneaky suspicion he told everyone that. Extremely grateful to have known such a compassionate individual.

  • Terry
    April 18, 2014 - 11:28

    Dr. Kennedy saved my life when I was 12yrs old. He had to get consent by phone from my mom as there was no time for her to come back to give written consent. I remember driving by his hone and store in Harbour Main, and inquiring about him. I will never forget his stern kindness and exceptional concern for me and my family. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. God speed Dr. Kennedy.

  • sandra milmore
    April 18, 2014 - 08:16

    I am alive today thanks to Dr. Kennedy... He literally saved my life... He performed surgery on me when I was 7 years old. My mom would tell me stories of how he took care of me and how he was determined to make me better.. I was at the Janeway for months. I am now 50 years old and still going strong thanks to the excellent care I received from Dr. Kennedy and his team at the Janeway.. R.I.P.

  • Jo Hawkins
    April 17, 2014 - 18:24

    As a very young Operating Room Techician @ St. Clare's .....I remember scrubbing for his cases.....I was so impressed by his surgery...his very large hands operating on day old Babies...I am sure that he will go into the Medicial history of Newfoundland as one of the best Pedi. Surg. ever.. ....R.I.P.