Dr. David Brook has practised out of Athlone Court for the past 15 years and is retiring from a 35-year career in public health serving in the geriatrics department. He will continue to work part time with patients in the late life stage (expectancy of 12 to 18 remaining months) in nursing homes. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Retiring Oak Bay geriatrics doctor shares his philosophy

‘People are unacquainted with death,’ Dr. David Brook said

After working with seniors in the medical field for 35 years, and seeing hundreds of them move on from life, Dr. David Brook has developed a philosophy of approach he wants to share now that he’s retiring.

At the heart of his approach is the spiritual element invoked by the relationship of a doctor and their patient. It’s especially pronounced with the dying, or the frail and failing, Brook says.

“You want to get to that oneness,” he said. “It’s about healing… I want [people] to have a deeper understanding that death is a part of life. The gift that you can give those you leave behind is that it’s OK, through understanding, acceptance and forgiveness. I see so many people who don’t talk about this stuff.”

Healing isn’t always fixing and is part of a “oneness” that people seek when they are facing the end of their life, Brook said.

“The word I keep using is love. I love my patients. I don’t have to like them all, but I love them.”

It’s part of what Brook discovered, and practised, during his 35 years in geriatrics. He’s practised the past 15 years out of Athlone Court on Oak Bay Avenue, often working with people in their final stages of life.

Brook is also an Oak Bay resident who’s spent most of his life in the community. He and his wife have lived in the same Oak Bay house since 1985. There they raised their family, a son and two daughters, a 15-minute walk from his office.

Visitors to this year’s Oak Bay Tea Party might have noticed him playing piano for the band Chafafa (they performed on the Saturday from 5 to 6 p.m.).

As of June 28, Brook will see his last patient in public practice. He won’t completely retire, as he’ll work part time to serve the needs of patients in the late stage of life at nursing homes. But at this stage, Brook was ready to share some parting words as a ‘relic of 20th century’ doctoring.

“I’m from a fading paradigm [in medicine],” Brook said. “When I went to school doctoring was prescriptive and authoritative. We were trained that way. And it works. Because the elderly are 20th century people, they like it.”

When a frightened person needs doctoring it’s a completely different experience, he noted. You have to establish a therapeutic alliance with the patient to heal them. Of course, you restore the restorable, and treat the treatable. But there’s more to it than science and technology. Doctors are healers, and need to embrace the spiritual aspect that patients encounter as they near the end of their time on Earth.

“You look at the word patient, it comes from the Latin word patienta, or suffering,” Brook noted. “And that’s what people go through, suffering.”

The use of ritual becomes a way of getting to that oneness, he said.

“I’ve seen people die with their loved ones reading [the Bible]. Every person I’ve seen leave this world has made a proclamation, verbal or otherwise, and there is an acknowledgement and acceptance. And forgiveness.”

In our time, in our culture, people are unacquainted with death, he noted.

Look at Prospero in Shakespeare’s Tempest, who says “every third thought will be my grave.”

It comes from a time when death stalked humanity, which it still does in other parts of the world, but is something we are removed from in Canada.

“[Shakespeare’s] generation was mortal,” Brook said. “People were au courant, from French [meaning an ongoing awareness] with death. Today, people don’t conduct themselves knowing that we are mortal. There’s a lot of denial.”

Brook has also seen people deal in their reckoning. And now he’s got a little reckoning of his own, as he enters the next chapter of life.

“It’s been a privilege to practice in a healing way and I tell the patients it’s been a privilege. It’s a rewarding act at every level.”

In retirement, or semi-retirement, Brook and his wife are also reconciling their responsibility as humans.

“We signed up for tai chi, it starts July 8. We want to buy electric [assist] bikes as we want to bike more but we live on a hill and we can use that little boost. And we are exploring veganism. My generation has a lot to answer for. We will keep holiday [travel] to a small radius, but it has to include Long Beach [Tofino].”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Just Posted

Driver charged in Central Saanich pedestrian’s death appears in court

Victim Kim Ward, 51, died on scene at the August 2018 crash

UVic second best comprehensive university in Canada: Macleans

B.C. schools take top two positions on yearly list

Victoria woman selling car halts fraudster in action

VicPD warns public to be on the lookout for bank draft fraud

Saanich safety upgrades, bike lane extension on Finnerty Road near completion

Raised instersection and sidewalks part of safety improvements near UVic

Esquimalt arson trial hears of feud with tenant before the fire

Wei Li charged with intentionally setting fire to a duplex he owned on Oct. 3, 2017

VIDEO: B.C. man’s yard comes alive with grizzlies at night

Malakwa man has captured images of 12 different grizzlies on video

POLL: Do you think the day of the federal election should be a statutory holiday?

Increasing voter turnout has long been a goal of officials across the… Continue reading

Two RCMP vehicles vandalized in Duncan over long weekend

Local Mounties asking for help in finding culprits

Fire response at Trans Mountain Burnaby tank farm could take six hours: audit

Site doesn’t have mutual aid response agreement with Burnaby fire department

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

Tickets available for Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame dinner and induction

Ryan Cochrane, Mike Piechnick and Rob Short among the inductees

Suspect hits woman with pipe, jumps into waiting truck in downtown Nanaimo

Police say victim believes ‘vicious assault’ was an attempted purse-snatching

Most Read