Richmond doctor celebrates 50 years of practice

Dr. Lionel Tenby celebrates 50 years of practising medicine in Richmond with a garden party behind his Seafair office. - Matthew Hoekstra photo
Dr. Lionel Tenby celebrates 50 years of practising medicine in Richmond with a garden party behind his Seafair office.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra photo

Finding a family doctor can be like finding a cure for the common cold, so when Ethel Parkes found Dr. Lionel Tenby, she didn’t let go.

“He manages to keep me healthy,” said Parkes, 88, who’s been a patient of Tenby’s for 50 years.

Parkes was among the patients, colleagues, friends and family gathered Monday in a garden behind Tenby’s Francis Road office to mark the doctor’s half-century milestone of practising medicine in Richmond.

“I have no intention to quit for the foreseeable future. I’m happy to keep on working and looking after my patients,” said the 79-year-old Tenby.

Tenby followed his father into medicine. He emigrated from London, England and opened his office in Seafair on Aug. 15, 1961. In 50 years, he said, Richmond has changed, but his practice hasn’t. Tenby still gives his patients plenty of time.

“I let them talk and tell me what their problems are. I’m not looking at the clock to kick them out to get the next patient in. The only people who don’t like it are the patients waiting in the waiting room... But when they get in, I give them the time too,” he said.

“It’s the way we’ve been operating the last half-century, and people seem to appreciate that.”

The doctor is known for visiting patients at home and in hospital—including during the days before Richmond Hospital, when such visits took him to Vancouver and New Westminster.

Given the long hours and mounds of paperwork a family practice entails, many medical students today opt to specialize instead. But Tenby said if he could do it all over again, he wouldn’t change paths.

“I like the variety—looking after the whole person.”

Ed Rienks, 49, has been seeing Tenby his entire life.

“He’s been good to my family,” he said, remembering Tenby’s house calls to his parents when they were ill. “I’m glad he’s hanging in there because I hear it’s very difficult to get a family doctor these days. To go to a clinic, I don’t think you get the same sort of relationship.”

At Monday’s celebration, Tenby paid tribute to his office staff, including Dolly Griffiths, who retired several years ago after 42 years on the job.

“He hired me when I really needed a job—that was really important to me—and we got along really well,” said Griffiths, 79. “I can honestly say during all that time we never had any arguments of any kind. He was really good to work for.”

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