Golden Hands Award Winner – Jan Leonard – 2018

Hello fellow ortho div members. I’ve been presenting in front of groups since I was a Sunday school teacher when I was a teenager. But this one’s going to be difficult. This award has been given before and will be given again. Here in AB, Elaine presented it to your own Bob Sydenham in 2009. Diane Lee, Cliff Fowler, Erl Pettman, John Oldham, Therese Lord, Richard Bourassa, from the east Bev Padfield, Elaine Maheu – award winner Jan Lowcock flew all the way to the Far East to Halifax to surprise Carol Kennedy with her award 3 years ago. I’m sure I missed a few as I just went by a few memories, icons of manual therapy in Canada. Everyone who has presented before me provides a history of all David’s amazing accomplishments. Google it. Elaine Maheu does a fantastic job on Youtube. Everyone before me was so happy to present this award. Unfortunately, I am not. my mother once said, “Jill, it is good that you aren’t phony, but a little tact would be nice.” I was probably 12 years old. Even this week, Lenerdene edited my presentations and removed my inappropriate jokes. So here we go. The Golden Hands award from inappropriate, tactless Jill.

The Golden Hands Award was created because David Lamb died. If Cliff or John or Erl had passed first, the award might have been in their honour. On one’s death, we reflect on a person and then we feel sad because they are gone. At my very first funeral, my mom said about the crying people, “Don’t feel badly for the person who’s in heaven, feel badly for the rest of us who have to live without them. That’s why they’re crying.” This year’s recipient of the Golden Hands Award is Jan Leonard, who passed away last month at the ripe old age of 53.

Like David Lamb, cancer took Jan’s life far too early. You might not know Jan as she wasn’t a National icon. She was from Sydney, Cape Breton, NS. But she was truly national. She went to Laval Quebec to learn French and then did her physio degree at Ottawa U – in French. She boasted she saw Roch Voisine, in his underwear as he was in her physio class first year before making it on the music stage, Juno award winner in 1993. She worked and did her level courses E1V1 to E3 V3 and even V4 in Vancouver. But like all good salmon, she came home to spawn. That’s when I met Jan. Rhonda Reardon, Jan, and I spent countless hours preparing for our Part Bs. As those of you who have made it through to the other side, passing the manip exams, is stressful. But the worst for Jan was when she developed an allergy to wine partway through.
In 1998, when I went back to school to do my Masters fulltime for 2 years, I knew who I had to replace myself with as not just anyone could take care of my patients. I stole Jan from Duncan MacAulay. Jan and I worked together for 16 years. I signed her pay cheque but I wasn’t her boss. CRA would never have proven a master-servant relationship. Jan took lots of time off for her children and to teach and never once asked me.

When I was asked to write a letter of nomination for Jan, I was torn. My husband Steve said not to say this out loud – but when have I ever listened to reason – I thought, Jan’s awesome, but the Golden Hands? She’s not one of the national icons! When I started to write, this came out. “Jan was in the trenches with me. We studied for our Part B’s together. We taught Orthopaedic Division courses together back in the day when you shared slides. We taught at Dalhousie together, she was patient and kind with the students who at that time I wondered how they even got into physio school. She truly called them the lambs. She nurtured these students and they not only graduated but became physiotherapists that we are proud to be part of our profession.”

David Kachan’s letter of nomination was far more eloquent than mine. He commented, “Jan possessed a wonderful balance of compassion and practicality; her patients knew she cared about them, but also that she expected them to be partners in their own recovery and continued good health.
As a clinical instructor at Dalhousie University, Jan taught hundreds of undergraduate students. She taught them not only the mechanics of assessment and treatment, but also the great value of curiosity, skepticism and questioning their gut instinct when it came to patient care.

Jan also quietly mentored students and young professionals on their lives and careers more generally, particularly on how they could achieve professional success while at the same time remaining committed to their family and their broader community. For Jan, professional success didn’t mean that she had to give up feeding her son’s entire hockey team on game day or getting out for a run or watching her daughter dance. She had an ease in the way she balanced all the things that were important to her. This was a particularly important message for the young women she mentored, building their confidence going forward. As many of us gathered to celebrate Jan’s life a few weeks ago, many former students spoke at length about the influence Jan had had on them, professionally and personally.

Rhonda Reardon, like myself, found it difficult to form words. Rhonda stated, “Jan demonstrated an exceptional ability to relate to patients and express empathy and humanity in her communication style.” Sounded like how David Lamb’s colleagues described him.

I was lucky enough to take a muscle energy technique course from David Lamb who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by IFOMPT in 1996, the year he died at 60. IFOMPT has a research fund in his name. But I didn’t know him, so when I was asked to present this award with very short notice, I asked a few physios about David Lamb. The descriptors included gentleman, bright, courteous, a giant teddy bear, a family man, his patients adored him, a lovely sense of humour, a great teacher – with high expectations but so supportive.

I don’t have to compare Jan to David Lamb and all the others who achieved such high national and international status. Jan was a level 3 instructor for the ortho div, the vice chair for the National Ortho Div, which means she was on and dealt with the Ed Comm, she was on the 1999 “The Tragic Hip Symposium” committee and for some reason even volunteered on the NS College of Physiotherapists. All the while, raising 3 children and keeping Gary, her husband, happy.

But back to my original statement about Jan. She was in the trenches with me. If she were here, she would say she didn’t deserve this award. She was just like the rest of us. And she was. We all deserve a pat on the back for spreading the good word of orthopaedic manual therapy. But she, like David, died. To parallel David, she was a lady, brilliant, her patients adored her, a Cape Breton sense of humour, a great teacher and mother – with high expectations but so supportive.

Congratulations, Jan, from all of us still in the trenches. Welcome to the Prestigious Golden Hands Award Club, where you belong.


— Presented by Jill Robertson


Jill Robertson and Alison Beaton - Golden Hands Award Presentation 2018