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Who We Are: Dr. Alyssa Boyd

“Sometimes the act of bringing value to people’s last moments is even better than medication.”

– Alyssa Boyd, family doctor and medical director of Collingwood hospice Campbell House, cofounder of the Living Wish Foundation www.livingwishfoundation.org

The Heart of the Matter

Family doctor Alyssa Boyd sees healing power in kindness.

A year ago, she helped establish the Living Wish Foundation, a non-profit that makes dreams come true for the terminally ill.

Alyssa is medical director of Campbell House, a hospice in Collingwood, and the family doctor for 700 patients at West End Family Practice in Wasaga Beach.

“Most of my job is about the medical aspects of care. My foundation is about the emotional part. I’ve come to believe emotional support serves patients in deeper ways than medicine can. It fills my cup.”

She grew up in Toronto, studied life sciences at Queens University and family medicine at McMaster University, graduating in 2003. Residency in a rural family practice near Thunder Bay was an “adventure,” she says. “We were also the vet.”

In medical school her mentor, Dr. Liz Latimer, asked her to visit a dying patient.  It changed her life.

She walked in on an intimate family moment: husband, wife and children sharing stories and memories with a much-loved woman in the bed.

“What I remember is not having to follow a script. It came naturally. Here in the midst of all this medical science was this beautiful moment of humanity,” she says.

The Living Wish Foundation is its own labour of love and a joint effort with nurses Lisa Wright and Nancy Good Kennedy.

One patient longed to dip her feet in the waters of Georgian Bay. Getting to yes required a floating wheelchair and some tricky transportation logistics, but she got her wish.

“She loved the wind in her hair. It was beautiful to see her like that. I had known her when she was super well. That’s real continuity.”

Another hospice patient was honoured with a confidential, bedside meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous so he could receive his pin marking 25 years of sobriety.

The hospice keeps her on call 24 hours a day. She has a busy husband, teacher Rob Henry, and two very busy children, Toby, 11, and Mia, 8. Sometimes she decompresses at the family cottage or in a lunch-time walk on the beach with colleague and best friend from McMaster days, Dr. Caroline Bowman.

“Being a rural palliative care doctor means you can provide care right to the end,” she says. “And I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Written by: Elizabeth Meen

McMaster University Department of Family MedicineMichael G. DeGroote School of Medicine