April 18, 2014. We mourn the loss of Dr. Linda Vickars, a dedicated, talented and selfless teacher and clinician. She will be missed. But her legacy will live on in all those she touched – her family, friends, colleagues, students, and many, many patients.
The following is part of a longer biography of Linda and her husband, Dr. Sheldon Naiman, recently written by a good friend and colleague of Linda, Dr. Vera Frinton. For the complete article, please see BCMJ, Vol. 55, No. 8, October 2013, page(s) 371-374 The Good Doctor.
“Dr Linda Vickars
A true Vancouverite, Linda was born in 1951, grew up in East Vancouver, and “proudly survived Killarney High School.” A favorite math teacher encouraged Linda to “do something with your life” and was likely the push behind her studying physiology, then medicine at UBC, leading to her MD degree in 1976.
While in medical school her younger brother, with whom she was very close, died of Crohn disease. After her graduation she began a straight internal medicine residency at VGH before moving to New Zealand to continue postgraduate work, focusing on criti-cal care. Linda’s father, in his 50s, died suddenly during a visit with her. After leaving New Zealand and 9 months of strenuous travel in Southeast Asia, Linda called UBC/VGH from Nepal looking for a job and was offered an internal medicine residency position (those were the days before CaRMs!). After completing a hematology fellowship she was on staff at VGH for 3 years before moving to St. Paul’s Hospital in 1987 to fill a vacancy left by the departure of Dr Penny Ballem.
Linda finished her residency and then practised hematology at St. Paul’s Hospital for over 25 years, and she was the division head for 12 years. A good day at work for Linda always involved the patients—caring for them, making a diagnosis, and teaching. Watching a student engage in the subject at hand was very exciting for her, especially if they’d want to stay late and learn more! She was also very pleased when she was able to make a diagnosis outside of her field, proving again that hematology is very connected to other areas of medicine.
Linda was in the habit of personally reviewing the slides of her patients’ blood in order to correlate the clinical with the hematopathology, and she taught her residents to do the same. In 2008 she was awarded the Clinical Faculty Award for Career Excellence in Clinical Teaching by the UBC Faculty of Medicine.
Linda would arrive in the hospital by 7:00 a.m. to visit her patients, to sit with them, reach out and touch them, and talk with them as long as they needed. She has an extraordinary gentleness about her, which of course was what her patients required, many of them suffering malignancies. She would return later, after a full office of similar caring and kindness, and make evening rounds again spending time with each patient, often getting home after 10:00 p.m. We obstetricians could call Linda in the middle of the night for help with a patient who was bleeding. Not only would Linda help decipher the blood work, but she would also take time from her sleep to calmly teach us, or the residents, about what was happening and what to do about it. And she always did this cheerfully.
In about 2004 a new opportunity presented itself and Linda decided to step away from hematologic malignancies and to focus on her passion for rare nonmalignant diseases that fit nowhere, and were “low volume but high maintenance.” Linda assumed the role of medical director of the Provincial Hemophilia and Inherited Bleeding Disorders Program from Dr Gerry Growe. This program cared for patients with hemophilia (factor VIII and IX deficiencies), von Willebrand disease, and rare clotting factor deficiencies.
Under her directorship, she developed an interdisciplinary team and the program expanded to become one of the largest and most recognized in the country. She established a much-needed provincial program for patients with inherited red cell disorders including thalassemia and sickle cell disease. From these conditions she became fascinated by transfusion-related iron overload and iron chelation therapy. Her group was the first in the world to demonstrate that iron chelation may improve the survival of patients with transfusion-dependent acquired anemias such as myelodysplastic syndromes. Linda was passionate about and intellectually challenged by these conditions. She traveled to international conferences and spoke as a leader in the field. Although privately a shy person, Linda was able to make presentations to very large international audiences and not experience any stage fright, remaining calm and funny.
Linda was starting a succession plan and looking forward to a gradual retirement from her clinical practice to allow more time to travel with Shelly, knowing his eyesight was failing. Unfortunately she had to stop working suddenly in July 2011, after experiencing a seizure and being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. With her usual cheerfulness she does (did) not despair the continuing seizures and mobility issues, but remarks (remarked) on how the illness has (had) allowed her to be home with Shelly and to connect with their friends.
Dr. Vickars succumbed to her illness at her home on Friday, April 18, 2014, with Shelly at her bedside and all her family and friends close by. Linda and Shelly and the family asked that if you wish, donations can be made to the UBC Sheldon Naiman and Linda Vickars Hematology Endowment Fund, c/o the UBC Faculty of Medicine, 2194 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3.