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May. 26, 2019 | Sunday
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Family doctor Julian Adams marks 50 years practising in NOTL
Dr. Julian Adams has been a NOTL family doctor for 50 years. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

After half a century as a trusted family physician in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Dr. Julian Adams has been treating local families for generations – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

This February marked 50 years working in the same location on Niagara Stone Road. He’s a part of the Niagara North Family Health Team, which has been updated and renamed over the years.

He’s unwavering in his belief that he’s exactly where he should be – no regrets, no second-guessing whether he made the right call; he was always going to be a doctor.

“I can’t remember ever really thinking about it. I just sort of drifted into it more than anything else. I’m not going to say it’s any sort of service to mankind. I didn’t really think like that as a kid.”

Born in Dublin and raised in the small town of Enniskillen, Ireland, he says he spent most summers with his aunt and uncle in York, England. Both were doctors and he followed suit, gliding into a career in medicine.

In 1969, he took what he thought to be a temporary position in a small town he couldn’t even locate on a map. He flew to Canada from Ireland and has been living and working in NOTL ever since.

“I have no regrets. I’m very happy.”

He took the job posting from the British Medical Journal and made the journey with his wife of one day – he married Emma the day before flying overseas, arriving in NOTL for what he believed would be a brief posting.

“We said, ‘We’ll take this job and then we’ll go to Toronto and get a proper job.’ We stayed here. No regrets at all.”

Being “soft” is one of the qualities he says make him well-suited for the role. His love of people and his method of addressing ailments as a whole have kept Adams interested in family practice all these years. The longer he’s been working with an entire family, the better he is able to gauge their medical issues and concerns, so he can begin working toward plans for healing.

“I’m not boasting, but when my patients come in, I can almost already guess what’s wrong with them. I know what they’re going to complain about before they say anything.”

He treats people’s ailments like jigsaw puzzles. There’s more to the story than just the immediate complaint, which he says he doesn’t really treat as complaints.

“We call them complaints, but they’re just pieces of the puzzle of each person.”

And he has had no shortage of patients in town.

Over the course of his career, he delivered babies who have grown up to have him deliver their children. “That’s when I stopped (delivering babies).”

“In those days a lot more family physicians did deliver babies. You got the whole family … It all fit well into a family practice.”

For the first 30 years of his career, he handled births, set fractures, and did more hospital visits in general. In the last 20 years he’s focused more of his energy on family practice – he says it’s not fair to the patients in the office when he leaves for patients at the hospital.

“It becomes very difficult in family practice. Delivering a baby at two in the morning, that’s fine. I just flash into St. Catharines, that’s great. But at 10 in the morning and the office is full, you crawl out to deliver a baby – you keep one patient happy, but you have many that aren’t happy.”

It became too destructive to his practice, he says, which he had spent decades building.

Guarding his age closely, at this point in his life, he says that’s probably his only secret.

Retirement isn’t in the plans yet, but it’s “definitely on the horizon.”

Since his wife Emma died in 2010 he has been living on his own. His children, both in their 40s, live in Toronto with their families. Between them, he has five grandchildren he sees mostly on holidays and long weekends.

“That’s probably why I’m still working. It’s like occupational therapy. It is something to do and I love my job.”

He doesn’t make it to as many social outings as he used to, “That’s probably because I’m not a couple anymore,” but he says he has no shortage of friends in town.

Retired NOTL physician Ranjit Ahluwalia worked with Adams for 30 years and says he was very socially active and liked by everyone.

Ahluwalia considers him a close friend and an exceptional doctor, noting he often referred patients to Adams. “In fact, he’s my doctor now.”

Eager to kick up his feet at the end of the day, Adams is a fan of soccer and American football, “believe it or not.”

“I watch some good shows like Game of Thrones as well.”

In his career, he says he never turned down an opportunity to learn from people.

“I remember a family doctor once told me, ‘Never fight with your patients. There’s a reason they’re fighting you.’ I took that to heart.”

He says how people adapt to different situations always surprised him.

“Some people adapt to their medical problems much better than others. That’s a pretty obvious statement, but it’s amazing how people are totally different. Some people, a little ache really bothers them, and other people put up with a lot more.”

“It’s just the beauty of the job.”

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