"To Live in Hearts You Leave Behind Is Not To Die"
A Tribute to Dr. E. Bruce Elliott
BY AGNES MALOUF
“By their fruits you shall know them.”
It may seem strange to have to look up the word “friend” in the dictionary—but this is exactly what I did as I realized to my surprise that I had lost a friend, and a good friend, when we lost Dr. Elliott. Why, I asked myself, should I consider him a friend, when he was just my “environmental doctor.”
Dr. Elliott defended us when nobody else did. He was there for us when nobody else was. If it were not for him, we would be a lot worse off than we were. We were fighting a common battle and we had a common cause: educating the governmental agencies responsible for the buildings in which we found ourselves so that they could understand in what way these buildings were affecting our health and, hopefully, take corrective measures.
Dr. Elliott was deeply concerned for the health of his patients and for those who shared the same environment, and he gave us the kind of help and support that produced measurable results. He had the courage to stand up for his convictions even if it meant being criticized by some members of the medical establishment.
Dr. Elliott cared about one thing: the quality of our lives. Dr. Elliott treated us as colleagues, not as patients. We were working together in a new field of medicine to see what preventive and restorative measures produced results. He did not believe in waiting until our health deteriorated to the point of no return. Dr. Elliott understood environmental sickness and, because of this understanding, was able to help so many of his patients that, last Christmas, his door was plastered with cards all testifying to his wonderful care.
We weep for the loss of a great professional but we continue to weep because we have lost a warm and loving human being.
My last memory of Dr. Elliott was at a routine appointment to receive my bi-weekly mould shot. When I told him I was going out that night—a rare occasion as I am a teacher—and mentioned that I was looking forward to my bottle of wine, he stopped me at the door to warn me of the possibility of wine aggravating my symptoms. When I told him that I had found a wine that I could drink with no reaction, he immediately wrote down the name of it into his left hand exactly as my students would do. He also suggested I take my students to the movie Grey Owl. It was just a small exchange, but I remember leaving his office laughing and thinking what a nice rapport we had on these visits.
When I had to wait a year and a half, back in 1995, to see Dr. Elliott, he sent me a hand-written note suggesting books I should read, people I should see for testing, and cautioning against operating ozone machines when people were present. Another hand-written note followed later—even before my first appointment with him. “I just wish I could help everyone all at once,” he wrote in this note.
Dr. Elliott, wherever you are, we love you, we miss you, and we miss your courage, dedication and love of life.
Tributes to Dr. Elliott from Colleagues and Friends
Excerpt from a tribute to Dr. Bruce Elliott, Middleton United Church, Wednesday, November 3, 1999 by Dr. Athol Roberts:
For 20 years he had been committed to the wonderful practice of family medicine in the Halifax-Dartmouth area. He also had a special emphasis on environmental illnesses and emergency medicine. His mindset to upgrade his medical knowledge and skills caused him to attend refresher courses and challenging medical symposiums on an annual basis. Humbly and gratefully I could say with Kipling: “I copied all I could follow; but I could not copy his mind, (and soon) he left me sweating and stealing, a mile and a half behind.”
Frank Fraser, Environmental Specialist and parent of two children taken out of an environmentally unsafe school:
I’ve met many doctors who have been so afraid of politics that they won’t even write up a medical report. Not Dr. Elliott. He was one of the few extremely caring doctors I know. He had a high level of ethics and morals; he cared so much for his patients but he knew the reality of the political situation. For his part he was going to do everything he could to tackle a problem which he knew is a global problem.
Dr. Patricia Beresford’s tribute during the November 12 memorial service made us laugh; it made us cry. Here is where it made us laugh:
Bruce was not without faults. He was well known to be always late by one-half hour for everything, but this was only because he was busy doing something else equally important. His writing was illegible, and he wrote profusely, causing great grief to those who had to read it. And, he had a passion for yellow ties, and when on trips to the U.S. we would have to wait for him in stores while he ruminated over which one to buy, even though he already had one on.
Don Chard, former NDP Environmental Critic:
He was doing very important work and he was highly respected by the people with whom he had contact. It takes a lot of courage to speak out against things that are wrong with the system and he had the courage to do so at considerable risk to his own career. It’s a remarkable tribute to his integrity.
Peter C. Furhovde:
Dr. Edwin Bruce Elliott loved life, and lived life to the fullest. He cared so much for his family and friends, that if they ever needed help, he would help them any way he could. Because he understood environmental illness and environmental sensitivities, he really tried to help his patients and make them feel better. I will miss him terribly like everyone who knew and loved him.
Dr. Bruce Elliott’s family and the Nova Scotia Allergy and Environmental Health Association have jointly established the Dr. E. Bruce Elliott Memorial Fund to encourage and support continuing treatment and education in the fields of environmental illness and medicine.
Donations may be made at the Bank of Montreal, Burnside Branch, Dartmouth, or you may mail your cheque, payable to The Dr. E. Bruce Elliott Memorial Fund, c/o NSAEHA, P.O. Box 31323, Halifax, N.S., B3K 5Y5. All donations will be gratefully acknowledged and a tax receipt issued upon request.
The first lecture in the Dr. E. Bruce Elliott Memorial Lecture Series was “Environmental Illness: Personally and Socially—Can We Afford It?” It was presented by Dr. Gerald Ross at Dalhousie University, Halifax, on Dec. 6, 1999 to an enthusiastic audience of close to 400 people.