Chair's Message - Remembering Dr. John F. Sangster

Dr. Sangster

The Family Medicine family lost an incredible physician, teacher, and person this March. Dr. John F. Sangster died after being involved in a car accident on Friday, March 18. This is a tremendous loss to so many people his legacy touched over his lengthy career. 

Dr. Sangster was one of the pioneers in our department. He was one of the first graduates of the Western University Family Medicine Residency Training Program in 1970. He was a graduate of the Master of Clinical Science in Family Medicine program and served as the Graduate Studies Program Director for 18 years. He was a clinical team leader at the Byron Family Medical Centre during most all his medical career – that is where I first met Dr. Sangster. I had the fortune to be placed on a rotation at the Byron Family Medical Centre during third year medical school for my Family Medicine clerkship rotation. At that time, I was still undecided on what my future career in medicine would be, but my 2 weeks with Dr. Sangster helped to solidify my choice to pursue family medicine. I remember being astonished about how well he knew his patients, how happy they were to see him, and the clear trust they had in him. My experience during clerkship was so impactful, I chose to stay at Western and go back to the Byron Family Medical Centre for my residency training. Dr. Sangster was the centre director at Byron at that time, and I remember being struck realizing the opportunities for leadership that existed in medicine. It was during residency that I understood there could be much more to medicine than just clinical practice. Working with preceptors like Drs. Sangster, Weston, Freeman, Jordan and Cejic opened my eyes to the teaching and leadership roles a family physician could take on.

After finishing residency and working in Sarnia for a few years, I was extremely privileged to move back to London to become a staff physician at the Byron Family Medical Centre and take on Dr. Sangster’s practice as he began a journey towards retirement. Working along side of Dr. Sangster, I continued to learn from him. He was a role model and mentor to me. His caring nature always shone through. His jovial demeanor and pure enjoyment of life was amazing to witness. Even in “winding down,” he took on a new challenge as the medical director at the Dearness Long Term Care home. This reinforced to me how varied a career in family medicine could be and how it can evolve over time. As an academic colleague, the mentoring and guidance he gave me at Byron was invaluable. The confidence he showed in me to take care of “his” patients was humbling. To this day, a week cannot go by without at least one patient asking, “How’s John doing?” The lasting impact on his patients is a remarkable thing to witness.

I feel grateful to have had so many opportunities to experience the gifts Dr. Sangster possessed. It was an honour to be his student, mentee, colleague, and friend. Rest in peace, John.

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