Norburn Medical: A History Timeline

Travel back with us over our history timeline from three-quarters of a century ago to the postwar birth of our Hastings Street clinic as a doctor’s office known as ‘Medical Associates.

But first, our story begins two decades before that, with the 1926 construction of Burnaby’s historic Regent Theatre. Let’s celebrate the upcoming centennial of the building we work in: a historic edifice now known as the Regent Building.

History Timeline

1926: the Regent Building is Born
1926: the Regent Building is Born

On a chilly Friday night during the height of the Roaring Twenties, Famous Players opened the impressive Regent Theatre on Hastings Street in burgeoning North Burnaby. It was January 8th, 1926 when the first moviegoers arrived at the new edifice. Due to dwindling attendance, which has been attributed to the popularity of a new home-based medium called television, the theatre closed its doors in 1957, and the building was sold in 1958. Decades later, the building existed as a grocery retail outlet when a restoration project was begun. By 2010, the restoration had progressed to the point that the building’s current brick facade was in place.

1946: The Birth of Medical Associates
1946: The Birth of Medical Associates

Medical Associates originated in February 1946 when Dr Gerald L. Smith opened an office for the practice of Medicine and Surgery at 3915 East Hastings Street, North Burnaby, BC. In July 1946, Dr John F. Arthur joined Dr Smith in a partnership. They had been roommates for a brief period in 1935 while at medical college in Winnipeg and had met again in Vancouver in 1940 when Dr Smith examined Dr Arthur at a recruiting centre for entry as a Service Medical Officer in the Canadian Military. The two had been in touch frequently during the war when they were both Service Medical Officers in the R.C.A.F.

Canadian Pacific Railway contract

During the partnership, Medical Associates had a Canadian Pacific Railway contract to attend to employees in North Burnaby. For this contract the doctors received the grand sum of $50 per month, plus four rail passes per year to anywhere in Canada. Dr Arthur had an arrangement to carry out three VD clinics a week and Dr Smith was the Medical Director of the BC Government Employees Medical Service for 10 years. The doctors kept up with these agreements for many years since only 10% of patients had medical insurance at that time and Social Assistance and Old Age Pensioners only received 50% reimbursement for medical appointments.

1949: Dr William Lovegrove joins

In 1949 Dr William Lovegrove joined the partnership but maintained his practice at this office on Renfrew Street tin Vancouver for several months. During 1946 – 1952, prior to the opening of the Burnaby General Hospital, hospital beds were few and may patients with Heart Failure, Pneumonia, Rheumatic Fever, and assorted medical problems were looked after at home with house calls. During the Influenza epidemics it was not unusual for the physicians to have 6-9 home calls to do in an evening.

Early 1950s: Obstetrics became a large part of the practice

Obstetrics became a large part of the practice during the late 40’s and early 50’s, the era of the “Baby Boom”. During that period, it was usual for the three doctors to deliver 250 babies per year. Dr Arthur who had an interest and special skills in Obstetrics, delivered the most maternities. Dr Lovegrove was more inclined to the medical side, whereas Dr Smith was interested in surgical, so they had a pleasant collaboration. The doctors worked 60 hours a week and all had young families, devoted and helpful wives and some time for relaxation. In 1950, they hired a full-time Laboratory Technician and although space was very restricted, they found the Technician a great aid both for the doctors and for patients, as the closest lab was in central Vancouver or one of the hospitals.

1951: The Classic Medical Associates Building
Old Location

In 1951 Medical Associates purchased a lot on Hastings Street, now 4027 East Hastings. They planned and built the first part of the building on a 33-foot lot.  There were two stories front and back, with a clerestory in-between (a high section of wall that contains windows above eye level. The purpose is to admit light, fresh air, or both). Over the years, the founding Physicians would take courses to learn new technical skills and better help patients. In 1951, Dr Smith decided to attempt to complete his surgical specialty toward which he had already had two years (1938-1940), prior to enlisting in Royal College. He passed the certificate examination in 1953 and thereby became the first specialist in Burnaby. During this time away, Dr Carmen Johnson took over his practice and remained with the group for 5 years.    

1952: Nurse Nora Whitlock

Nora Whitlock began work with Medical Associates in 1952 and was an essential member of our organization until her retirement in 1975. Nora was a graduate of Royal Columbian Hospital School of Nursing (1944) & worked at the Medical Associates office for 23 years. Nora had a phenomenal memory and a special talent with people as well as an excellent medical sense. She did all allergy injections and supervised all nursing procedures in the office throughout her years.

1954: Manager Andy Gillespie

It was in 1954 when the business needed help with accounts receivable that they hired Andy Gillespie as the Business Manager. Andy was a credit expert and rapidly brought the business side of the practice into line. At that time there were four doctors in the office, one full and one part time nurse, two nurses’ aids (MOA’s), two Receptionists and one Laboratory Technician. Andy remained on at Medical Associates until his retirement in 1974.

1955-56: Dr Young replaces Dr Ellis

In 1955 while Dr Arthur was away on post graduate study in Chicago, Dr Ron Ellis joined the group and stayed for 1 year. He left to practice with friends in Vegreville, Alberta before joining the Underhill Clinic in Kelowna in 1957. He completed his Internal Medicine specialty at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal in 1960 – 1961. He was on staff at Kelowna General Hospital until he retired in 1997. Dr Bruce Young replaced Dr Ellis and proved to be an excellent addition. Bruce served in the RCAF in 1944-45. In 1952, he graduated from medical school at the University of Manitoba; he met his wife, Olive, at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Hospital. Dr Young remained with the group for 5 years and left to study Radiology and was subsequently a member of the H. Brooke Radiology group.

1956-58: Drs Zimmerman and Kirkwood

Dr Henry Zimmerman Joined Medical Associates in 1956 after graduating from UBC and rapidly developed a large practice. Harry remained one of the stalwarts of the group and was the senior member at the time of his retirement in October 1988. Dr Ken Kirkwood joined the group in 1958 and proved to be a most valued member. Ken was especially well equipped in Pharmacologically and was our reference in matters of psychiatric disorders. His care of the elderly was especially commendable.

1959-64: Medical Associates Expands
1976 Medical Associates 1

In 1959 Medical Associates expanded the premises by buying a lot and building immediately adjacent on the east side. They built a seven-room addition and connected it to the other building. They later demolished that commercial building and built the medical offices including a pharmacy space in 1964. They remained in that building until December of 2011.

Doctors of the 1960s

During the period between 1960 and 1965 there were a number of short-term doctors who would assist in the practice. Some trying out group practice, some earning a few bucks preparatory before going into post graduate studies. Some of these were Dr Clayt Davis, who became an Ophthalmologist in Ontario, Dr Paul Van Uchelen who left to practice in the US and Dr Bob Thompson who qualified in Plastic Surgery and had a very successful Vancouver practice in the specialty. Dr R.C. Jones certified in the specialty of General Surgery, joined the group in April of 1964 and thereafter shared surgical duties with Dr Smith. He practiced at Medical Associates for 25 years when in 1992 he semi-retired to Halfmoon Bay, where he continued to assist in surgeries before fully retiring in 1996. Dr Jack Fitton started practice at 4027 in August 1965. He had extra training in General Medicine at Flint, Michigan and quickly became a valued member of the group. He remained until August 1991. He carried a large and dedicated patient load. Dr T. S. Hourigan joined Medical Associates in July 1968 and added a new dimension with his expertise in Allergy Testing and Treatment. Dr Hourigan shared with Dr Lovegrove the office interpretation of ECG’s a valued feature, along with his interest in Internal Medicine. Dr Hourigan retired in 2000 to move to Halfmoon Bay.

1971: Dr Hardie replaces Dr. Smith
1976 Medical Associates 2

Dr Gerald Smith retired from active practice in July 1971 after 25 years in the organization of Medical Associates, fondly remembering the practice grow from a sole practitioner working in a two-room office with a shared Receptionist, to an eight-doctor group with over 10 helpful supportive staff members. Dr William Hardie took over the general practice of Dr Smith. He had special training in Pediatrics but had to convert to adult medicine as there was no medical pediatrics in Dr Smith’s practice.

1972-73: Drs Arthur & Lovegrove Retire

Dr John Arthur retired from practice in 1972, had been the first associate with Dr Smith and had participated fully in the growth and progress of the company. Dr Ian Taylor assumed the practice of Dr Arthur. Dr Taylor had special training in Internal Medicine and Electrocardiography and fitted well with the group. Dr Lovegrove, retired for Medical Associates in 1973. Bill had seen all the changes recorded and had been a most valued member of the group. Upon retirement Bill became a house builder and completed a beautiful home on his Aldergrove property. Dr Dennis Jack assumed the practice of Dr Lovegrove. With his extra training in General Practice with the College of Family Physicians of Canada, he was he first member to be so qualified.

1988-91: Drs Zimmerman, Kirkwood & Fitton Retire

Dr Zimmerman retired in 1988 after being with the group for 32 years. The senior member of Medical Associates at the time of his retirement, he also had the distinction of being the longest serving member of the organization and had been a premier performer both in practice and administrative matters. His practice was assumed by Dr Henry Lew. Dr Ken Kirkwood left practice in June 1988 after 30 years with Medical Associates as the youngest retiree to that date. Ken’s practice was taken by Dr Peter J. Smith. Dr Fitton retired in August 1991 after 26 years with the group and left his busy practice in the care of Dr Michael Look. A UBC graduate, Michael is actively involved in teaching UBC medical students and family practice residents. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor for the UBC Division of Family Practice.

1974: Andy Gillespie Retires

Andy Gillespie retired from his position as Business Manager in 1974 after 20 years of meritorious service. His expertise in Medical Office Administration was recognized by the BC Medical Association and he became their first consultant in Medical Office Administration. Andy travelled the province assisting physicians to update their administrative patterns and efficiency for eight years during part of which he was President of the Association of Clinic Managers. Andy’s position was assumed by Pat Forrester, who continued the pattern of progressively improving the administrative details in the office and assisting the doctors in business decisions until her retirement in February 2002.

1991: Dr Karime Mitha joins

Dr Jones who had been reducing his surgical work for some time, retired from practice in August 1991 and his general practice was taken over by Dr Karime Mitha. Dr Jones was with Medical Associates for 27 years. Dr. Mitha completed her medical degree at the University of British Columbia in 1990. Subsequently, she finished her rotating Internship at the University of Ottawa and returned to the Lower Mainland to begin her family practice in Burnaby. She has years of experience in family practice and maternity care, with much of her practice focused on Women’s Health and Primary Care Maternity. Since 2005, Dr. Mitha has been a clinical instructor at UBC in Family Practice and Maternity. Between 2009 and 2012 she served as the co-chair of the Department of Obstetrics at Burnaby Hospital, Dr. Mitha was on the board of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice until 2018 and is the local Department Head of Family Practice for Burnaby.

1999-2002: Changes

Dr Tom Hourgan retired in 1999 and Dr Sam Lang assumed his practice. Dr. Lang graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and completed his family practice residency program at the University of B.C. Pat Forrester as the Clinic manager at the time, retired in February 2002. Pat Gayman who had worked at Norburn since she was fresh out of high school assumed the role of manager. Pat started at Medical Associates on April 15, 1974, and retired December 31, 2020, 46.5 years later. Claudine Lafreniere was hired to replace Pat in the newly created role of Operations Manager in July 2020.

2003: Dr Sharp replaces Dr Jack

Dr Dennis Jack retired in November 2003 and in 2004 Dr Stephen Sharp assumed his practice. A graduate of the University of Saskatchewan school of medicine, Dr. Sharp completed his residency training at McGill university in Montréal prior to migrating to British Columbia. Stephen enjoys providing care across the lifespan, from infant care to pediatrics, to care for the elderly. He also has special interest in preventative health and chronic disease management utilizing a ‘lifestyle first’ approach and in 2018, became diplomat certified with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Dr Ian Taylor retired December 2004 and Dr Karim Harjee who had a full practice on Commercial Street in Vancouver, joined Norburn Medical and added Ian’s patients in January 2005.

2007: Dr William Hardie retires

Dr William Hardie retired in May 2007 and Dr Khai Phan joined in June 2007. Dr. Phan is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan and has been working in BC for more than 15 years. He enjoys a varied family practice and has special interests in Medical Acupuncture, Technology in Medicine, and teaches medical students of UBC part time. In 2008 the clinic started to migrate all paper patient records to electronic computer records using Oscar EMR system. Thousands of pages of paper were saved per month making record keeping and organizing quicker and more accurate for the doctors and staff.

2011: Drs Thauli and Sam
New Location 2011

Dr Gulraj Thauli and Dr Janie Sam joined Norburn Medical in 2011 having both had successful practices in a shared office in Metrotown. Dr Gulraj Thauli graduated from UBC Medical school in 1989. He worked in rural Ontario and BC before settling into practice in Burnaby in 1995. Dr. Janie Sam is a graduate of the UBC medical school and has been practicing in Burnaby since 1991. She enjoys seeing families and patients from all age groups and has an interest in preventive medicine and exercise.

Norburn Moves to the Regent Building
New Location 2011

In December 2011, the office was moved to the aforementioned Regent Building (former home of the Regent Theatre) at 4012 East Hastings–directly across the street from the classic location at 4027 E Hastings. The building owner allowed Norburn Medical to customize the space to its liking, and the interior office space was designed by Andrew I. Davis Designs Inc.

2012-2013: Retirements and Moves

Dr Henry Lew retired in November 2012 and Dr Albert Lui took his practice over. Dr Lui had his own office location which he moved to Norburn in Dec 2012. Dr Peter Smith retired in Dec 2013 and his practice was taken over by Dr Lindsay McCaffrey who had covered many doctors for vacation in the most recent years. Dr. McCaffrey attended medical school at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON and then did her Family Practice Residency training at the University of Toronto. She moved back home to BC in 2011 and joined Norburn Medical in 2014. Lindsay sits on the Board of Directors of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice.

2017: Dr. Namrata Jhamb joins

Dr. Namrata Jhamb joined Norburn Medical Clinic in a shared practice model with Dr. Karime Mitha in 2017. Dr. Jhamb graduated from medical school at the University of British Columbia in 2013, and completed her Family Practice residency in Victoria, BC in 2015. In addition to her longitudinal Family Practice work, she delivers maternity care at Royal Columbian Hospital and teaches UBC Family Practice residents. She is a former board member for BC Family Doctors and a former member of the Representative Assembly for the Doctors of BC. She regularly presents webinars and seminars to practising Family Doctors on behalf of BC Family Doctors, the General Practice Services Commission, and the Canadian Medical Association.