Dr. E.P. Scarlett – Calgary’s first heart specialist

Dr. E.P. Scarlett, honorary degree recipient, 1969 - Glenbow Archives PA-2446-17

Dr. E.P. Scarlett, honorary degree recipient, 1969 - Glenbow Archives PA-2446-17

1930 was an important year in the history of the Cardiovascular Sciences in Calgary. It marked the arrival of Dr. Earle P. Scarlett to the city, who most will agree was our first heart specialist. Dr. Scarlett brought with him the city’s first ECG machine, but also a variety of personal interests including, ironically, history.

Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote in Vol. 1 No. 3 of the Calgary Associate Clinic Historical Bulletin, dated November 1936 under the heading, “The Consolations of Medicine”:

The span of a physician’s life might be written in three phases (if we choose to be Olympian in our view). The first period comprises the ten years of training in college, medical school, and hospital. There follows the second stage – the early years of practice while he is becoming what is popularly known as established, eking out a small living, doing unpaid work in clinics and hospitals, above all never appearing to be unsuccessful, and, through it all, if he is to remain vital, virtually consuming his stores of youthful idealism against the day of his success. At forty or shortly after, he passes into the third period, achieving his professional success, is caught up in the whirlwind of activity in practice and medical organizations, takes his place in those activities in public life expected of him, educates his family with whom he endeavours to become acquainted in short summer vacations; whirled in the maelstrom of modern life, he struggles to keep up with the increasing tempo of medical practice, is invariably late for appointments, snatches a little vicarious pleasure in occasional sport, and in odd moments of contemplation smiles wryly at the words of Osler, the medical prophet of a more leisurely generation, whose counsel to the physicians was “aequanimitas,” a calm spirit, but whose master-word was “work.” And finally, as often as not, while he is still bewildered, or in a mood of frustration, or meditating retirement, there comes an early death (the average age of death of physicians, according to figures, being sixty).

It is little wonder then that at times there are outbursts against the tyranny of it all.

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