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Dr. Dennis McElgunn

Messages of Remembrance

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I worked with Dennis for many years. He was a true confident and loyal friend. No matter how stressful things got in the Office he had a way of looking at the positive side. With a laugh and joke Dennis made me feel good and helped me put things into perspective. I will always remember his kindness.

Pennie Connor, employee
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I am a little late to the table here but just found out of Dennis' passing last night and haven't stopped thinking about him since. I met Dennis shortly after my career in Medical Imaging started in 1995. The relationships gained between the ER staff and all of its supporting departments were paramount in providing the best care in the most urgent times. We had our favorite docs to work with and Dennis was at the very top of the list. He had a way af making very stressful situations feel okay. I would often reflect after dealing with the most emergent life and death situation and always I would think about how I wouldn't want anybody else but Dennis to be there if I was in need of emergency care. This truly is a statement because we have some amazing amazing ER physicians here in Victoria. Dennis, we spent many a night working side by side finding answers to why people rolled up on our doors needing our help while most of Victoria slept safely at home. It's these times where countless stories of heroism came that I will always remember. Your ways of talking to patients, colleagues and staff were so much appreciated. If you called, we answered. We we're always excited that we could possibly help you, help others. R.I.P. Dennis. You will truly be missed.

Scott Perry, Colleague
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I first met Dennis when I was in my residency. He was at that time, and likely before then and definitely after that, an essential part of the Victoria ER physician community. Whenever I was in the ER seemed to always be working. His relationship with staff and colleagues was legend. I once went to an ER conference in Ireland and he was there too. I still feel his presence like he is about to walk around the corner anytime I am in the ER. He was there when I returned to Victoria from 8 years in Yellowknife and helped welcome me into the ER community here. He touched so many lives.

Alex Hoechsmann, ER Colleague
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Dennis was a very smart, hardworking and a good guy to be around. I appreciated his sense of humor and excellent care of patients. The Orthopedic Division has put together a "McElgunn Shield" that will be presented to the Emergency physician that displays the most accurate assessment and treatment of orthopedic injuries. This will be presented annually at our orthopedic meeting in his honour.

Peter Dryden, colleague
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My profound sympathies to Dr. McElgunn’s family. He was one of the first emergency room doctors that I met when I arrived in Victoria. Ever since that time I’ve never hesitated to take a call from him because I knew that he would give me an intelligent story and also make me laugh no matter how tired I was. I knew him as an excellent physician, but more importantly a kind human being.

Alex Henri-Bhargava, Colleague
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Dennis and Linda lived in our neighbourhood and shared a love of bulldogs, they had two and so did we. He loved those dogs, and we would have many a conversation about their quirks and maladies, the latter of which there were many, at no small cost! He was one of the few people who truly understood my infatuation with them,cause he had it too! I respected him as physician, appreciated him as a neighbour and lover of bullies, he was just a good person and will be missed.

Carole Williams, Colleague and friend
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One of a handful of leaders/colleagues and mentors I can say I've had the pleasure of working with, knowing, and feeling a profound, intimate sense of loss at losing him. Any time of day or night, when you heard "Please hold for Dr. McElgun", you knew two things....one that this consult was going to be completely worked up, managed and packaged for you, and second that he would start the conversation by asking "Alex....where are you? I hope you're doing something fun. How's Simon? How are the kids?....OK, listen, this guys is in trouble and bleeding etc..... Even at 2 in the morning with the most dire patient he first asked how you, your family and your life was. It was ALWAYS a pleasure to hear his voice. The day after my own father died (just a few weeks before Dennis's own death), I ran into Dennis in Thrify's parking lot. I immediately broke into tears when I saw him as he held his arms out for me and then proceeded to tell me all the things that he loved about me and therefore, all the amazing qualities that my dad must have had to instil them in me. He was a gem of a person and a doctor...I'm so so sorry to see him go. He will be sorely missed and never forgotten.

Alexandra Mihailovic, Colleague
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I had the chance of meeting Dennis two years ago when I started working in Victoria. In one of our first encounter, he spontaneously asked me what was my childhood nickname (Loulou! - which nobody has used in years). Thereafter, he always used to call me that way - which was so personal and always brought good memories. I was very impressed by his human touch. He was also very respectful and valued other's opinions - even if he was way more experienced! To a exceptional human being, that will greatly be missed. Thank you for everything you offered us.

Marie-Noelle, Colleague
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Hard to write this without blurry eyes, he was a force. Over the years, he took the greatest care of his patients without missing a beat. Always a bedside friend and medicine man. My family, in its entirety have been blessed by his care and wit, I felt so safe when we brought my daughter in for a seizure at 18 months. I have had the absolute honour of working with him for many years...from the "old" ER at VGH to what he is now in the walls of our department. Miss you Dennis, you always kept us on our toes.

Lisee O'Brien, nurse colleague and patient
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What I remember most about Dennis was that he was a teacher - a teacher of students, residents, colleagues, patients. He didn’t beat around the bush - if you weren’t doing something right, he didn’t sugar coat it - he told you straight out - with that funny quirky smile of his. But then he would have absolute faith that you would get it right the next time and let you fly, which as a resident, was the most empowering feeling in the world. He wasn’t afraid to look something up if he didn’t know, and he inspired learners to be constantly reading, learning and striving to be a better emergency physician. I remember so clearly the day as a resident, he took me aside and said, “you should be doing emergency medicine”, embarking me on a career that I hadn’t envisioned until that point, both in emergency medicine and in medical education. Now, over 20 years later, I can only hope that I could take someone aside, say only a few words to them and carry the weight, wisdom and support to affect their lives so profoundly, as Dennis has done for so many. Thank you, McElgunn family, for sharing such a wonderful man with us for so long. He shall be missed.

Tina Webber, Mentee and Colleague
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28 years have passed since I first met Dennis. He was a superb mentor and friend. He was a no nonsense and strong EP, loved his calling and treated everyone as equal. I still think of him regularly, carry the lessons he taught me and have passed on many. He inspired me to become a better physician. He left a true legacy. These are huge shoes to fill.

Dave Pledger, Colleague
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Linda; I am grateful to Dennis for many things. Mostly, he made me laugh when we worked together. And I loved that when things were difficult, he did not feel sorry for himself. Dennis worked to serve others. His ethic of service without self pity was apparent to both younger and older docs. It was good to see others incorporate that ethic into their lives. He made all of us better doctors just by modelling a better way. Dennis was a force multiplier for good and he is missed. Bob Penner

Bob Penner, Friend
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Dennis was truly one of the reasons I went into Emergency Medicine. I first met him in 1985 as a PGY2 Resident, when he was a "Casualty Officer" (the term for an EP, back in those days) in the ED of the Royal Alex Hospital in Edmonton. Dennis was like Clint Eastwood in a movie...wrinkled, experienced, confident, and with a cutting and wry sense of humour. He was also wonderful with patients, and an incredible teacher. It was hard for anyone not to be inspired by him. Dennis went on to be a source of guidance and mentorship for me in the years to come, starting when I returned to the Royal Alex over the next two summers, as a frighteningly inexperienced and undertrained locum Emergency Physician. When I later made the decision, after 6 years in FM and EM practice, to pursue EM Residency Training, Dennis was one of my references. His letter was undoubtedly an important factor in my acceptance into the UBC EM training program. Even to this day, some 35 years later, I find myself teaching residents and medical students at Vancouver General the very things that Dennis first taught me. I hope it's a comfort to his family and friends to know that in this way his legacy continues. And this award is a wonderful way to further enshrine that legacy. Dennis played a major role in defining our specialty in Canada, and he will be deeply missed by all of us who had the privilege to know and work with him.

Riyad Abu-Laban, Mentee and Friend
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Dennis was an exemplary clinician and just a fine example of a human being. This world has far too few heroes in it these days, and it is profoundly sad that there is one fewer in 2020. In 2005, my elderly father-in-law broke his hip while walking his dog and ended up in the RJH ED. It was an exceptionally busy day in the ED and he probably wasn't getting the attention he would normally have received during quieter times, so I came down from the ICU and stood by his bedside, hoping someone might notice. Of course...who else but Dennis did. He said, "Hey Lorne! What you doing down here? I don't think we have any business for you yet!". Then as he often did, he figured it out. He got my father-in-law all sorted out and then did a double-take while looking at me. "Geez, you look worse than he does. You should be admitted too." Little did I know that I would be admitted to the hospital myself the same day with Legionnaire's disease. So like Dennis to get 2 for the price of one. All of us miss him. Some people are just irreplaceable.

Lorne Porayko, Colleague
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PGY45 is how I introduced Dennis to learners I was working with. Why? Because he never stopped learning and never wanted anyone else to either. I loved working with Dennis. I remember soon after my arrival in Victoria in 2006; we were working at VGH on one of my earliest shifts - I had a keen medical student and we were discussing pediatric C spine evaluation. The student left the area and Dennis turned with that wry smile and said “you’re gonna work out here, that was GOOD”. I felt welcome in that exact moment. And so began a decade plus of galloping off to see rashes together (he loved discussing rashes; no really), trauma call and the ensuing case discussions, laughter, administrative talk, night shifts, day shifts and everything else. I admired his joy when seeing tiny babies and wee ones, his sense of humour with young adults, and his grace and kindness. Ever a gentleman, whose kind eyes belied a steely intellect and a wonderful pedigree of experience. And, in an ERP spot, a sports car of course. Always, always the teacher. A dog man. Hockey guy. A family man, deeply committed. No one has given more to us than Dennis. I miss him fiercely. Every. Single. Day.

Chris Hall, Colleague and friend

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