I recently had the pleasure of meeting Merrilee Brown, one of our Docs and one of our community’s dedicated residents. Merrilee was recently chosen to receive the Ontario College of Family Physicians’ highest honour, the Reg L. Perkin Family Physician of the Year Award for Ontario. This prestigious honour is awarded to a family doctor who provides exceptional care to patients, while significantly contributing to the health and well-being of communities and society. The award is quite an honour, and worthy of taking a look at the events in Dr. Brown’s life, which led to being the recipient of this tribute.
Merrilee was born in Bowmanville. Her father was a land surveyor and her mom was a high school teacher. A career in medicine had always been in the back of her mind, even when she was waitressing at the local Howard Johnson’s.
Upon graduation, and a desire to work in a small town, Merrilee began searching for a place she could call home. It was her brother Doug, who worked as a pharmacist at Bruton’s Big V, in Port Perry, who insisted she give our town a try. “I had always wanted to be a physician,” Merrilee explained. “Initially I wanted a career in geriatrics, but the idea of helping different age groups was also appealing.”
Merrilee achieved her undergrad at McMaster University in Hamilton, and spent two years in family medicine in Ottawa. Her first glimpse of a small town came when the program director, Dr. John Forster, left, to move to Port Perry.
After relocating, her initial assignments were covering for other Docs on maternity leave, vacation, etc. Still not certain what direction to take, Merrilee took a trip out west with a few friends. It was there she met Stephen Grey, a resident of Calgary. “I fell in love with the west, and no doubt Stephen, as well, and considered a palliative care position in Edmonton.
After a few years in Alberta, Merrilee returned to Ontario in 1998, and a year later she and Stephen were married. They made their home on Scugog Island. “Our intention was to flip the house, but we fell in love with it, and the community, and stayed for 10 years.”
Both their children, Alastair and Sophie were born there, and in 2007 the family moved into town. Merrilee continued working at Medical Associates of Port Perry, as a family physician, where she delivers babies and provides palliative care. She also cares for patients in their homes, in the hospital, and works in the emergency room.
Husband Stephen, also joined Medical Associates as CEO of the operation, overseeing the entire reconstruction of the facility, including the creation of a huge addition.
Dr. Merrilee is dutifully involved with the family medicine facility of the University of Toronto, and constantly assists in the development of education programs to train students. She also served on the joint committee for Rural Medical Teaching and set the standards for teaching medicine in outlying areas. She continues to work with the Society of Rural Physicians.
Merrilee and her husband Stephen, welcome exchange students into their home. “I love the opportunities it provides to the students,” Merrilee explains. She herself, was an exchange student in 1985, spending time in San Sebastian, Spain. It offered her a fantastic opportunity to learn Spanish.
As important as medicine is to Dr. Brown, there is much more filling her life. She borrowed a French horn and learned to play it. She also signed up as a volunteer at R.H. Cornish Public School, to go skiing with students. Now her and Stephen are avid skiers.
Along with the recent Reg. L. Perkin award as Doctor of the Year for Ontario, Merrilee has been appointed to the Mayor’s Honour Roll for 2017. This award is given locally to residents of Port Perry who generously give back to our community, in time, service and expertise.
Merrilee Brown has become an asset to Scugog, carving out a reputation as someone who contributes greatly to the community and beyond.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, author, columnist and key-note speaker. Follow his adventures, at www.photosNtravel.com