The never-ending journey

Eighteen months ago, Dr. Philip Squires was lying in a neurosurgery recovery bed at University Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre. Surgeons had removed a tumour that was pushing against his brain stem, but his initial recovery wasn’t going well.

In that moment, he appreciated, more than ever, medicine from a patient perspective.

“It put me on the other side of the gurney,” he said. “It was an experience of feeling pretty vulnerable. It’s not unique to me though, it’s what every patient goes through.”

An experienced paediatrician and expert in child behaviour and depression, Dr. Squires has been a great contributor to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Distributed Education program as a faculty member since 2001. Before his health concerns brought about an unplanned, early retirement, he practiced as a paediatrician in Stratford for 15 years.  

Now on the road to recovery, he is eager to explore new ways he can contribute to the medical field. “My brain still works, I just have to get my body to cooperate,” he said with a chuckle.

Dr. Squires came to Southwestern Ontario from Edmundston, New Brunswick, a francophone region of Canada’s east coast. A medical graduate of the University of Calgary, he also completed training at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom.

In the mid-eighties, Dr. Squires spent five years in Burundi, a country in eastern Africa, helping to train local physicians on practical skills and working with Mother and Child Health & Family Planning. 

With a worldly resumé, the spiritual aspect of medicine has been a common thread between his diverse experiences across the globe.  

“This is a journey that is unparalleled,” he explained. “I don’t know any other profession where you’re so close to people’s hearts, for themselves and for their children. Because people give more to their children than themselves, especially when they’re sick.”

It’s an outlook Dr. Squires often shared with the medical students and residents regularly at his side.

“If your heart is in it, it’s a very rewarding career,” he said. “That’s not hokey-pokey; it’s a real sense of who we are as doctors and what life is all about.”

The thoughtful doctor also imparted sound practical advice, including the importance of collaboration.

“I worked with students to convey the concept that cooperation should trump competition,” he said. “Competition is for objects, like the price of shoes, but cooperation is for humans and how we work together.”

A well-respected community stalwart, colleagues, former students and patients have rallied around the physician during his recovery. A retirement celebration is taking place for him this week at Stratford General Hospital.   

While he has accepted retirement, Dr. Squires looks at his life and career as a never-ending journey.  

“It’s a gift to have been able to interact with the next generation of physicians and be a part of their training,” he said. “If I passed something on that would be a wonderful accomplishment, but even if I didn’t pass anything on and I was just one of the many doctors they saw, I benefitted from hearing and seeing them and helping them be the best doctors they can be.”