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Ron Pond

Who Am I? - What a great question.  I have been trying to determine this for myself for some years now, so this is a great opportunity to try to pull my thoughts together.

I could quote from one of my favorite Spiritual gurus, Neale Donald Walsch, who would say that the purpose of my life is to express and experience who I am, and that is to know myself as an aspect of the Divine. However that could lead to many hours of discussion and debate, and this is not the time or the place for that.

Or I could quote from the book we reviewed with the Probus Book Club recently, The Universe Within by Neil Torok. He says “we are just the product of random mutation and natural selection, now reaching its termination, or are we potentially the initiators of a new evolutionary stage in which life may rise to a whole new level”;  or I could take another quote from his book as to who are we in the end?  “we represent something very rare in the universe---the organization of matter and energy into a living, conscious being”    If I talk about this you would understand why the book club had considerable difficulty with this book about Quantum Physics.

But I believe that what is expected is that I tell “my Story” of where I came from and some of the experiences over the past 80 years that bring me to where and what  I am today.

I was born in Simcoe Ontario---just a few miles south of here—in 1932 just as the great depression was getting underway. My dad was the youngest of 7 siblings, 6 boys and I girl. In Simcoe his 3 eldest sibs had developed a large textile factory called Britishknit, and he could always get employment of some type with them, even though he really disliked having brothers as his boss. My mom’s father owned the only butcher shop in town, so we always had good food on the table! My only sibling, my sister, came along when I was three years old. Dad wanted to establish himself away from his brothers, so in about 1937 we moved to Thorold for a couple of years as my dad tried a new job as an insurance salesman. The insurance people here probably recall when the lowest people in the hierarchy had a route to collect premiums from a list of clients every week or month as well as try to sell new insurance. . Two  recollection of those years are 1. the ships on the Welland Canal, which was only a block from our home, and 2. my introduction to the big world, when as a grade 1 kid I had some differences with the tough kid in the class. We ended up settling things in a semi organized “contest” outside the school fence after school one day. I remember what seemed like the whole school forming a circle around the two of us as we tested our manhood . Fortunately 6 year olds don’t pack much of a punch, so neither suffered beyond bruises and torn and dirty clothes. The outcome was a draw as neither really won the encounter, but as a result we did learn some respect for each other and actually became pretty good friends after that.

The insurance business at that level did not seem to have a great future so when employees became scarce as the 2nd world war broke out, dad’s brothers persuaded him to return to Simcoe to help in the mill.

When the  war broke out I was way too young to be in the army, but my recollection is that kids had no choice but to start working harder and younger than they do today. I was about 9 when I started delivering  the Globe and Mail not only to many homes (for the princely sum of 18 cents per week), but also to the army camp which had been quickly built in Simcoe as a Basic Training Centre. In the 1940’s  “telegrams” were used rather than emails for the communication of important information , and I started delivering these before I turned 11. My boss delivered those with a message from the Dept of National Defence that someone was killed in action, but in addition to the routine business messages I did often deliver messages that a relative was missing or wounded in action. It seems to  me in retrospect that maturity and responsibility developed much earlier in life than today

High School during the post war years and the late 40’s was probably the best years of my life in many ways.  I was very involved, had lots of good friends, did very well at school both academically and in sports, could always get good summer and part time jobs; and even more special I met Elaine, the wonderful girl who would become my wife and my life companion. We did not have “student loans” in those years, so I worked full time and saved vigorously for one year after High School, and then went on to Queen’s University where I studied Medicine for what then was a 6 year program. ` Elaine had gone to U of T

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to become an occupational and physiotherapist, a three year course then.  We were married after my third year and she supported me for the last three years, working at the Ontario Psychiatric Hospital in Kingston. We always agreed that she got a pretty good return on her investment!

After graduation and an internship in Hamilton, I obtained a job in Port Colborne with an established Family Doctor. Sometimes I think that was a golden age to be a doctor. The red carpet treatment was the norm, you were accepted into all levels of society, everyone respected you, and when you came onto a hospital ward, the nurses all stood up and almost curtsied to you. In return you were expected to work very hard, and 80-90 hour work weeks were not unusual.  After about 3 years I was made a partner. As a family doc in the 1950’s and 60’s, a young physician could do most anything he felt competent to do, so I had a wide experience, including being made Chief of Anaesthesia. I was one of the first physicians in Ontario to learn hypnosis and to incorporate it into my practice as an adjunct in pain relief. It makes me laugh now at the extreme discretion I used to decide with whom I could even talk about this at first.  My partner was the only Roman Catholic doctor in town., so in those “pre birth control pill days”,he naturally  developed a large obstetrical practise.  Obstetrics did not pay very well in those days ($60.00 for full prenatal care, delivery, and follow up visit), but most patients were so appreciative and grateful to us, and always had a “thank you Dr.Pond” line in the newspaper birth announcement. There were humorous things too; one time I was out on call (we made regular house calls, and our spouse answered the phones when the office was closed) when my wife took a call from a hysterical mother that her little 5 year old  boy was “caught” in his zipper, and could the doctor come quickly. I don’t know how he managed to get the zipper done up with his foreskin stuck in it, but I became an instant hero when I freed him quickly and uneventfully.

I was a very different pre- medicare world from medicine today. Then a few years later in 1964, my partner and mentor was killed in a tragic car accident.  I guess this was when I was introduced to administration since we had grown to a clinic of 5 doctors, me becoming the senior one.

I had always wanted to specialize, but could never make up my mind which parts of the practice I would give up. As I hit mid life I realized it was then or never, so I left the practice and commuted to Buffalo where I enrolled in the Psychiatry  residency training program at the State University of New York for three years, and then did a further year in Child psychiatry at McMaster in Hamilton.  I returned to my old clinic in Port Colborne to do private practice of Psychiatry .  The mid 1970’s turned out to be the start of major changes in Medicine as Medicare became more firmly entrenched. As a Specialist I was making less income than I did as a Family Doc, so when an opportunity to take a salaried position at Homewood was offered, I made the big move to Guelph.

For a few years life was great. Regular hours,  only on call about 1night in 10,  and a regular paycheque.  My family life certainly improved.  When I went there I had no expectation of any promotions since the senior people were as young  or younger than I was. However, things rarely stay static in my life, and 1986  I was offered the position of Medical Director and then in 1990  was made CEO of this large private psychiatric Hospital. I started as CEO at the same time an NDP government was elected in Ontario, and they did not really approve of anything “private” in the health care field. This made for an interesting time, including a restructuring of the Homewood Corporation to separate the hospital from the more profitable businesses of Homewood. Otherwise it was too tempting a target for the Ministry of Health of that day. In fact, this was a good  thing, since some parts of Homewood were  now able to focus more on successful business ventures, while others including  me could focus on  operating an excellent hospital .  There was a mandatory retirement at 65  at Homewood in 1997, and while I could have perhaps stayed on, my wife and family were more than ready for me to have more time at home…and so was I

 Homewood Health Centre was a great place to practice good medicine, and  I always looked forward to going to my “work” every day. The rate of change in health care during the 90’s  as quality of care, patient safety and new therapies became the emphasis, made for many challenges as well as much excitement and satisfaction.  There were some humorous events there in that mostly misunderstood facility in the middle of Guelph. E.g. people often asked about “the rubber rooms”, and of course there are none, and very few locked doors by the time I started there.. One time it was rumored that Michael Jackson was there as a patient. We understand he actually had gone to a private clinic in Switzerland, but the plane he used was returning home and apparently stopped in Hamilton to refuel .The media were sure Michael had come to Homewood, and we had paparazzi all over the property , encouraged by some patients who egged them on by waving a white Michael style white glove out a window. Normally we made “no comment” about who was or was not a patient, but we finally had to tell the press that unfortunately Michael was not one of our patients!

I seem to emphasize my career when I am talking about `who am I`, but in my own mind, the most important part of my life was my family.  Elaine was my wife, my companion and  my best friend until her death 2 years ago from a rare malignant blood disorder.  After I graduated from Queens, she devoted herself to providing a great foundation for our 4 wonderful daughters, who continue to make us proud and happy as

 they all become successful in their own lives, and are giving us 10 fantastic grandchildren, and more recently 2 great grand children. The kids spread across the country, from British Columbia to New Brunswick, so we had a great excuse to travel to visit them.

It was interesting that when I started changing my career to psychiatry, Elaine became involved with the education system and was elected to the Public School Board in Niagara South, where she became chairperson, and again after we moved to Guelph she was elected to the Wellington County Public School Board, where she was again elected chairperson.  During that same time she also, through a series of coincidental happenings, developed an interest in Astrology. Anything she undertook, she did very well, and here she studied and qualified through exams for membership as a professional astrologer with two different International organizations. I also became fascinated with Astrology  when she went ahead to become co-creator of the Canadian Association for Astrological Education, with a formal 4 year program of study and examinations. Friends often wondered how a scientist physician and astrologer could get along?  Actually we both developed a huge respect for ideas that might differ from our own

We bought our first of several  Motor Homes, a Winnebago, in 1967, and this became our major hobby as we travelled extensively across North America , camping in every state and province at least once. Some folks say that “motorhoming” is not real “camping”, but it certainly worked for us. Our appreciation and fascination with North America never left us, and it was not until  later in life that we did much international travel.

There were many service and charitable organizations, four of which at times were a big part of  my life :

 I was active with Lions Club in both Port Colborne and Guelph, serving on the executive in both, and a term as President with the Guelph Club.  

I was very involved with the United Church in my earlier years, serving on most boards  including the session as an elder, until for many reasons I became disillusioned by organized religion of all sorts, and now have a different type of relationship with God as I understand Him.

 I was invited to join the board of the K-W Symphony Orchestra in 1990 where I served ,including a term as President, until 2001.During one of the turbulent times, the manager quit, and since I had just retired from the hospital, I offered to fill in for a “few weeks” until we could recruit a new person. Those few weeks turned into almost a year before we found a suitable person. I learned more that year about symphony orchestras than I really wanted to even know . Did you know that musicians are as difficult as doctors to manage ?.  I am still on the Chairman`s Advisory Committee, and am a stong supporter and advocate for the KWS

For about the last 10 years I have been President of the Waterpark Condominium  Corporation where we live. I certainly enjoy this, and must be doing something right since I have little competition for the job, but it is getting time for someone else to become involved.

One other interesting thing I participated in was the Quality of the Canadian Health care system. In 1990 I joined and became a surveyor for the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation, recently renamed Accreditation Canada.  About 98% of all Canadian hospitals, and well over half of long term care facilities voluntarily join the accreditation program, and teams of trained surveyors, originally doctors, nurses and hospital administrators, but now, all types  of health professionals, donate  10 days per year to visit and assess these facilities The process of assessment has evolved and improved over the past 2 decades, but it continues to set the standards for safety and quality of care in Canadian Health Services. This program has been asked to start up or mentor a similar system in a number of other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Bermuda. Teams from other countries such as Ireland, Australia and Spain have visited Canada to learn about our system. (I was lucky enough to be assigned to Bermuda one year!!)

Shortly before I retired from this activity, the Federal Government mandated that the Federal Penitentiaries be accredited in their health services. Since I had some time available, I was part of a small team that visited over 30 of the 53 Federal prisons, where we found that they did not meet National Health Care standards at all. To do so would require a major adjustment in their management system which  basically emphasize security and control rather than treatment.  Our visits became more of an educational mission at that time. I understand from colleagues that now there are genuine attempts being made to improve health care for all prisoners. It was an amazing experience for me to visit and see the inside workings of all those penitentiaries, and I assure you that I stayed close to someone who had access to a key to get out!!

I learned about the health care system from the other  side when Elaine was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called  “myelodysplasia syndrome”  or MDS,   in 2008. Her age precluded her from a bone marrow transplant,which sometimes is curative, but regular blood transfusions kept her functioning fairly well for a couple of years, but in the summer of 2011 I felt like my world had ended when she had to leave us.

John Panabaker invited me to join Probus that fall, and this is helping me to learn that life goes on, and offers new challenges. Since joining the book club and the “fingroup” this year, I am getting more enthused about Probus.  I thank you for this opportunity

So now that you all know some of the highlights of my 81 years  on the planet, you have some idea of “Who am I?”


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