Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 2, 2007
Mundare doctor went 'beyond the call of duty'
Basilian Fathers Museum exhibition honours Dr. Nicolas Strilchuk
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"He (Dr. Nicholas Strilchuk) was a great listener and good diagnostician."
- video documentary
Strilchuk's story is also part of the book Beyond the Call of Duty, which features the stories of 18 individuals who made a difference in the development of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada. Rais spent more than three years researching the 324-page, two-volume book, which is available at the museum for $39.
About 100 people were present for the opening of the exhibit June 10, including Strilchuk's children and Premier Ed Stelmach.
The museum also opened an exhibit that marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment in 1956 of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan See of Canada. It features photos and stories of Metropolitans Maxim Hermaniuk, Michael Bzdel and Lawrence Huculak. Their stories, along with Strilchuk's story and the stories of 14 others are also part of Rais' book.
The museum decided to focus on Strilchuk because "he had a big impact" on life in Mundare and area and was well loved by the entire community, Rais said June 21.
"He went beyond the call of duty."
The exhibit on Strilchuk, which joins an existing display on the legacy of the Ukrainian-Canadian Woman, includes an operating table, medical instruments and his surgical suitcase.
Strilchuk's family arrived in Canada from Ukraine in 1902 when Nicholas was two years old. They settled near Round Hill.
Strilchuk was the first Ukrainian doctor raised in the province, receiving his degree in 1926. After completing his residency in Ohio, he returned to Alberta.
"Mundare and vicinity offered an inviting opportunity for the young doctor and the vision of serving his own people was especially attractive," relates a video documentary on him.
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Dagmar Rais, the Basilian Fathers Museum curator, spent more than three years researching the 324-page book, Beyond the Call of Duty.
"Before he made a permanent move, however, Dr. Strilchuk negotiated the construction of a hospital in Mundare with the provincial superior of the Basilians and the Sisters Servants."
Until that point the sisters had provided health care the old fashioned way - home visits, home remedies, long-term home care and even nursing help for ill mothers. That changed after Strilchuk's arrival and the building of the hospital.
"What a blessing for Ukrainians when a doctor speaking their language and understanding their ways began his practice in Mundare!" the documentary says.
"What a hope for women who would soon be able to give birth to their babies in a hospital maternity ward!"
On Sept. 29, 1928, a year after his arrival in Mundare, Strilchuk forged permanent ties with the community by marrying Anne, the daughter of a local businessman.
They would have four children plus one child they adopted from the orphanage the sisters ran in town.
Strilchuk, a devout Ukrainian Catholic, is described as a compassionate physician who spent hours by his patients' bedsides observing them and trying to figure out their problems.
"He was a great listener and good diagnostician," the documentary recounts.
"He (Dr. Nicholas Strilchuk) went beyond the call of duty."
- Dagmar Rais
Strilchuk understood holistic care, which took into consideration not only the physical body but also the mind and spirit.
"He could recognize the emotional and spiritual issues underlying many illnesses. Thus he was able to provide counselling as well as medical care."
Strilchuk was also a humanitarian. In the absence of an ambulance he would bring a patient to the hospital in his car if necessary.
In an emergency he would again use his car to take the patient to the hospital in Edmonton. He also took patients back and forth from the hospital to attend church.
And when his Ford would get stuck in deep mud or heavy snow, he would use horse and buggy to visit his patients.
Strilchuk was involved in many organizations, including the Elks, Alberta Fish and Game Association, Royal Canadian Air Cadets and Knights of Columbus.
His wife Anna, a substitute teacher, sang in the choir of Sts. Peters and Paul Church, taught catechism, was a leader of the Catholic Women's League and was a member of the local parent-teacher association.
Throughout his career Strilchuk remained true to his original training as a generalist, which he never regretted.
Any specialization would have taken him away from what he loved most - his people and the variety in his practice.
Strilchuk died in Mundare in 1996 at age 95.
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