By: Sharman Yarnell – Montreal Times
We often talk of doctors in extremes. Either they are worshipped as Gods; or they are looked upon as terrible, uncaring people out to make a buck. Both are relevant.
This is about a doctor whose actions firmly place the word ‘compassion’ back into the medical dictionary. On the weekends, he loses himself working on his cottage in the country. But during the week, he works non-stop, as Director of Student Health at McGill University, and twice a week at the Jewish General Hospital.
Over and above this, after his work day is over, Doctor Pierre-Paul Tellier has been showing up at Head & Hands to help those who wouldn’t normally search out a doctor’s help – Those who have chosen a different way of life. Those who are poor and cannot pay. Those who have had a life on the streets thrust upon them.
He volunteers his time twice weekly and has done so for over thirty years.
Tellier is there for the drug addicts, the trans-genders, kids of all social backgrounds needing to talk to someone they can trust, and anyone else who might need his expertise or ear. He’s not judgmental – he listens. They trust him. And over the years, some have returned to thank him.
He grew up in Berthierville, Quebec. Neither of his parents finished elementary school, but they insisted on a good education for him and his two sisters. Little did they know what they were creating.
Not all that certain as to what he wanted to be, he took biology at the University of Ottawa. It was there that fellow students dared him to apply for medicine: “You’re just afraid that you won’t be accepted.” He dared. He won the bet.
And thousands of people who have walked through the doors of Head & Hands were winners that day, too.
It wasn’t all that easy – he and his sister, who was also studying in Ottawa, shared an apartment and, in fact, became the janitors of their building to save money while going to university.
To say the entire family was thrilled that he had chosen medicine as a career would be an understatement. He remembers in his first year of medical school sitting at the dinner table and being quizzed about gynecological issues by his aunts. His mother was very supportive and “protected” him from further inquisition – “Go see your own doctors!” she told them.
Tellier’s idea of being a doctor is akin to that of Dr. Welby, M.D., a television show he watched when growing up. He admired the fact that Welby helped solve problems beyond medical issues. His mantra is a belief in that old fashioned thing called caring…caring beyond the giving of needles, or writing a prescription and swiping a medi-care card.
It is this philosophy, this dedication to the people who walk through the doors of Head & Hands, that earned Tellier the Solidaires Citizen Involvement Award for 2014 (Centraide Montreal). In the 32 years spent at the N.D.G. clinic, Tellier has seen over 20,000 people. The award is given to community agencies and volunteers who have alleviated the suffering of those who are in need. Along with the award to Tellier, a cheque for $10,000 was given to Head & Hands.
Tellier’s own take on Head&Hands goes from the obvious to the personal. “It’s so unique in that it’s a community organization that runs a medical clinic but is not funded by the government. It is run by young people who want to make a difference. They create a place where people are made welcome and at ease….”
He, too, benefits from the clinic. “For me, it has provided a supportive environment that allows me to continue to apply the knowledge that I have learned over the years. They make me feel that I’m at home. I am surrounded by people who are my extended family. Even if I am tired when I get there, I soon begin to feel more invigorated as the night goes on. I enjoy the people who come to the clinic. I feel good knowing that I am making some form of a difference in their lives.”
Ask them at Head & Hands how they feel about Dr. Tellier: “We all LOVE Dr. T…and feel very, very grateful to have him here…!” (Rhonda Buckland, Counsellor, Head &Hands)