At 85, uOttawa is still his home turf
It's been more than 60 years since Dr. Barrett Adams was tackling competitors on the uOttawa football field and studying to be a doctor. Since then, he launched a successful medical practice, was a long-time faculty member, and played a key role in the creation of CHEO.
After all these years, one would understand completely if he swapped his white coat for gardening gloves and a quiet life in the country. But instead, he is just as involved with his alma mater as ever.
What keeps him coming back, he says, is his belief that nothing happens to you on your own—rather, it’s because of the people and facilities you’ve been involved with.
“I look back on my medical training at the Faculty of Medicine with gratitude, as the reason I have achieved what I have,” he says, “and I feel it’s important to respect those who have helped you by giving back in the same way.”
Barry for short, Dr. Adams set foot on the University's downtown campus first as an undergraduate student, then as an MD student, taking classes in, among other buildings, the old army barracks on King Edward. He trained and played as an Ottawa Gee-Gee during his undergrad years, but gave up football upon entering the MD program to dedicate himself to medicine, graduating in 1959.
Dr. Adams decided early on to specialize in the medical care of children, growing up surrounded by and caring for his younger siblings in Cornwall, Ontario. In addition to building his practice and a family of his own, he championed the creation of CHEO, convincing the community that the growing city of Ottawa needed a pediatric facility. He retired from his practice in 2015 at the age of 81.
Dr. Adams finds himself back on campus often: attending the dean’s town halls, frequenting university and alumni events, even meeting patients. Still passionate about the medical care of children and in the training and support of tomorrow's pediatricians, he regularly attends grand rounds with medical students at CHEO. Although there for his own continued learning, he appreciates the opportunity to bring his own years of wisdom into the conversation.
"By supporting someone along the way, you hope that in turn they will do the same when they too are able," he explains, "whether it’s sharing one’s own experiences, lending an ear or a pep talk, or any kind of support, really."
If he can help alleviate some of the obstacles facing young students, he says, he is happy to help.
“When I was teaching at CHEO, students shared their stories, like the challenges they face in travelling to apply to residencies,” he says. “I feel for the students because it has changed a lot from when I was at school.”
Now, Dr. Adams finds pleasure in helping build the dreams of young students. For over 30 years, he has been a loyal donor to the Faculty of Medicine, including through his own scholarship. Established in 1997, the Barrett Adams Scholarship for Pediatric Medicine helps uOttawa medical students in need who are interested in pursuing a career in pediatric medicine. It warms his heart, he says, when the students reach out to extend their gratitude. Dr. Adams has also established a planned gift in order to perpetuate his fund and his impact on tomorrow’s leaders.
He also continues to support his beloved Gee-Gees, regularly attending games and proudly observing their success in recent years. He looks forward to attending October's homecoming matchup, in which they'll defend Pedro the Panda, reclaimed from rival Carleton University last year.
These days, the former player is happy to participate by cheering from the stands, ever the paternal figure to the youngsters on the field. He sees the eager spirit in their eyes and the successes that lie ahead of them, while recalling his own. Only this time, he's happy to play offence from the sidelines, kicking a few obstacles out of their way.
In addition to the Panda Game, Dr. Adams is looking forward to celebrating the 60th anniversary of his graduating year at this October’s Homecoming events.
Main photo: Dr. Barrett Adams alongside 1959 class president Dr. J. Beaudoin, with whom Dr. Adams stays in touch to this day.