New Wellspring Calgary Board Member, Dr. Maureen McCall, MD, MPH, CCFP
Maureen McCall has devoted a great deal of her life to attending to the needs of others. As an esteemed family doctor; an advocate for patient and caregiver support; a champion of international causes; and a prominent palliative lead in Alberta, her devotion to compassionate care runs deep and is firmly rooted in steely resolve.
“Many years ago, my mother-in-law was dying from advanced cancer at a high profile cancer research hospital in the United States. She was in terrible pain and though I repeatedly requested better pain management for her, I was told things like, they didn’t want to bother the doctor … it was too late in the day … they didn’t want her to become addicted,” said Maureen. “Thankfully these myths have mostly been dispelled, but what she went through caused her and the extended family a great deal of unnecessary suffering. That made me resolve to get better training in pain control and to find ways to help people dealing with cancer.”
This focus has been an integral part of Maureen’s 40-plus year career in healthcare, first in her 35-year family practice, and now in her roles as Medical Lead for the Central Zone Palliative Team, and Medical Director for the Palliative Unit at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
Maureen pays homage to her cherished mentors, Dr. Helen Hays and Dr. Michael Thain, renowned physicians who pioneered palliative care in Alberta, and whose holistic approach to medicine resonates deeply and has provided a compass for Maureen’s lifelong passion.
Witnessing the many types of loss and suffering endured by her patients and their caregivers, Maureen was compelled to search for the best medical and non-medical supports for her patients and their loved ones.
“I have always tried to connect patients to psychological supports, but often I found the resources were generic, like mental health supports, or church supports, or private counseling – which can be so expensive; it’s been hard to find support that’s affordable and specific to cancer.”
When Maureen learned that Wellspring had expanded its services and was offering programs online, this positioned Wellspring as a resource that could positively impact her central Alberta patients. Maureen reached out for an opportunity to collaborate, and was enthusiastically welcomed to help inform Wellspring’s plan to offer cancer support services and resources in central Alberta.
Recently, Maureen joined the Wellspring Calgary Board of Directors and is actively working with southern Alberta lead, Rebecca Perkins, and a diverse group of Central Alberta professionals and patients, to develop pilot programs, make referrals, and forge vital connections in central Alberta cancer networks.
“I think what Wellspring offers is vitally important, not just for patients, but for caregivers who often have little support as they go through these difficult times with their loved one,” said Maureen. “I truly believe that distraction is very effective in pain relief and symptom control – whether it’s art or music, a physical activity or a mindfulness program. With the huge variety of programs available for people at Wellspring – I think there is something for just about everyone to help them connect, distract, and bring new meaning to their lives apart from this cancer experience.”
It was a serendipitous moment when Maureen researched the Wellspring Calgary founders and learned that she had a childhood tie to one of the co-founders, John Stephure. “I grew up in Lethbridge and at one point we lived just down the street from the Stephure family. Mrs. Stephure was my Home Economics teacher, and I loved Home Ec! I went to school with John’s brother Dick – we were friends and friendly rivals at many things – piano, singing, poetry, and more. Though I haven’t seen them in years, I have a fond connection to the Stephure family,” said Maureen.