Nova Scotia College of Family Physicians honours beloved palliative care doctor

by Keith Corcoran

Nova Scotia's College of Family Physicians honoured a beloved Lunenburg County palliative care doctor for his lifetime dedicated to his community and family medicine.

The professional association recently honoured Dr. David Abriel posthumously for his dedicating his life to family medicine and service to his community.

"For us, it was very beautiful and fitting" to recognize Abriel with the 2017 Dr. Charles and Mrs. Jean Gass Lifetime Achievement Award, the college's executive director Cathie Carroll told LighthouseNOW.

Abriel and his wife Heather died in February as a result of a traffic accident on Highway 103 in the Ingramport area.

David, a palliative care physician who worked in Lunenburg, Bridgewater and Liverpool, and Heather, a teacher, are both remembered not just for their work in their lifetimes, but for playing Father and Mother Christmas in a Mahone Bay Christmas festival.

Carroll said honouring David was a no-brainer and a committee made the decision very quickly. "He was an amazing, caring, compassionate and genuine person in palliative care," she said.

It's the second time the college has awarded a lifetime achievement honour. The framed certificate was handed to two of the Abriel children during an awards gala.

Dr. Peter Vaughan was a medical director and chief executive with what was then South Shore Health, which oversaw hospitals in Bridgewater, Lunenburg and Liverpool. Vaughan worked with David over an eight-year period.

Vaughan said David deserved the college's recognition.

"He had a wonderful, gregarious, down-to-earth, very personable manner to him," Vaughan explained to LighthouseNOW.

David gave his heart and soul to palliative care, helping patients and families navigate challenging times, Vaughan said.

"While he was a very consummate professional, he was really just a genuine person and Dave could relate to anyone from any walk of life on a very equal level."

Both Vaughan and David shared passions for their work and interest in music.

The college said David and Heather "were gifted musicians who shared their music with the palliative care team, patients, and their families."

More than once, Vaughan, who plays guitar and other instruments, discussed jamming with his colleague.

"We always talked about it, but with our busy lives we never got around to to it and that's my one regret," Vaughan said.

The college described David as "a dedicated lifelong learner and also a passionate supporter of Dying with Dignity."

"Highly regarded by his colleagues and community, his upbeat, approachable demeanor made him a beam of light in a potentially dreary environment. Dr. Abriel and his wife Heather will be greatly missed by all who had their lives touched by them."

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