Golden Hands Award Winner – Richard Bourassa – 2014

(Pictures and speech by Vince Cunanan)

Every year, the Golden Hands Award of the National Orthopaedic Division is given in honor of the late David Lamb, a world-renowned manual therapist, who served as one of the builders of the Canadian Academy of Manual and Manipulative Physical Therapy. He served as a member of the Standards Committee for IFOMPT in the 70’s and was its Chair to 1990. He lectured extensively and conducted courses on all levels of manual therapy across the globe. The Golden Hands Award is given to an exceptional orthopaedic physiotherapist that exemplifies the commitment to our profession in manual therapy, education, mentorship and research. It gives me great pleasure and honor to represent the Canadian orthopaedic body and announce this year’s recipient – a mentor to many of you, including myself, a colleague, a friend, Mr. Richard Bourassa.

My first encounter with Richard was over 14 years ago when, as a senior physio student, I had the opportunity to tour private clinics to get a “feel” for what orthopaedic practice was like. There we were, myself and 4 other classmates, sitting with the, then red haired, styled in Donald Trump-like quaff, and thick groomed mustached man, who initially appeared intimidating by the way he spoke of the functional rehab model, but soon less intimidating by the way he spoke of patient care. I remember well, when his face turned tomato red, when someone from our group asked him how much money he made.

Those who know Richard, are very aware that his facial palor, often becomes increasingly facial rubor, not as a reflection of stress or anger, but often following a non- intentional joke or commentary about how one night, following a strong mobilization technique on a patient, he had to call on an orthopaedic surgeon friend to…(oh, probably shouldn’t say that one – something about a tibia, and an intramedullary nail). Carol Kennedy acknowledges it best in her nomination letter by saying, “his dry sense of humour has been a delight at many a long meeting.” So true…and often much needed.

Richard is, at times, a quiet man, but you know he’s thinking about something. Although when he speaks, it’s not only about his grey hear and his age, it’s often a clever analogy about cars, their transmission and motor, and how this would relate and parallel our body’s response to a sensitized nervous system.

There is much care and concern in all that he does. As a teacher and mentor, he will often not want you to back down from your opinion (especially if you’re his co- instructor)…unless you’re completely wrong. His mentorship and teaching style is one that any educator would wish to emulate, always leaving you clinically satisfied.

To highlight briefly, over the last 33 or more years, Richard has been a Partner and Administrative Chair in a large mutli-disciplinary rehab centre. He has managed to complete his Master of Science in Community Health and Epidemiology. He is a Clinical Associate Professor with the School of Physical Therapy at the University of Saskatchewan; a Part-time Clinical Instructor with the College of Dentistry in assessment and mechanical management of temporo-mandibular disorders. He is a Chief Examiner and Chief Instructor in the Orthopaedic Division syllabus. These extensive credentials have provided the foundation for his self-less dedication and commitment to both undergraduate and graduate physical therapy programs.

A phenomenal nine letters of support were submitted as part of Richard’s nomination for this year. I had the pleasure of reading them all. As a humble man, he certainly would not want me to be listing off all his accolades. However, if you’ll allow me, the excerpts enclosed truly summarize Richard’s accomplishments and highlight his value and respect by peers:

From Hilary Reese:
More recently, Richard has been a mentor for me as I train to become an examiner within the Intermediate and Advanced Manual and Manipulative Therapy Program. Over the years I have come to realize that Richard would inspire me to become an expert by questioning and challenging his own and other’s beliefs. Richard is a critical thinker and constantly challenges those around him and encourages them to question…Qualities of a mentor include respectful, sensitive, confident, knowledgeable, flexible and concerned for others, and Richard demonstrates all of these with passion.

From Amber Rollack:
Everyday, I personally witness Richard’s love and dedication to this profession. His first priority is always the client and their health and recovery. In the treatment room, he is a compassionate therapist, treating clients and their family members with the utmost dignity and respect. Richard Bourassa possesses a genuine desire to see the profession of physical therapy continue to produce highly qualified, competent, and compassionate therapists.

From Stacey Lovo Grona:
I have had first hand experience with the incredible mentorship and support Richard provides a therapist as they develop their skills in manual therapy, clinical reasoning, patient communication and team collaboration…I have directly observed and learned from his clinical expertise, as well as his ability to see a whole person and address difficult biopsychosocial situations with respectful, caring treatment for every patient. On many occasions his kindness, gentle and respectful manner with patients in very tough situations has brought them to tears. On many occasions patients have expressed overwhelming gratitude for his persistence in helping them with their problems and for his honesty and caring.

From Carol Kennedy:
As an Orthopedic Division Instructor, Richard has been a driving force in Saskatchewan and has mentored many of the newer instructors as they progress through the system…Richard has always been concerned about the issues facing physiotherapists in rural areas that wish to complete their manual therapy certification. As such he has developed innovative approaches to share didactic and practical instruction through tools such as video conferencing. Many students who cannot easily access instruction and mentorship have appreciated this assistance.

From Lenerdene Levesque:
Richard is a self-reflective, transformational leader and has demonstrated this in many aspects. He is a…quiet leader who “patiently, carefully, and incrementally does what is right for their organizations, for the people around them and for themselves, inconspicuously and without casualties.”

From Bob Sydenham:
I am not familiar with all of the Physical Therapists in Saskatchewan, but I suspect Richard, has to be one of the most influential Physical Therapists, professionally, politically and as an individual. He rivals the notoriety of the infamous “Rider Pride” in the Canadian manual therapy world.

From Dean Watson:
Richard is an extremely skilled manual therapist that people will travel great distances to see. This may be because they trust that they are safe in his hands when they trust no one else or that they value his opinion for a treatment plan that will provide results. Richard will see people who have gone through harrowing ordeals and look them directly in the eyes with a frank level of honesty to give them a prognosis with treatment options.

From Brenna Bath:
He has raised the profile of the physiotherapy profession and the substantial contribution PTs can make in interprofessional collaborative practice settings.

Lastly, From Roland Lavallee:
Richard deserves our collective gratitude for showing us the way towards excellence and the Golden Hands Award is an appropriate and deserved recognition for his lifetime contributions. He did this quietly, respectfully from the heart with no selfish intentions or personal agendas. This sharing spirit and thirst for knowledge are ingredients that will sustain our profession for a lifetime to come.

As most of us know, it will take a lifetime to try and emulate all of Richard’s contributions to our profession. Although, I am confident in knowing that he continues to dedicate himself so that we can get there ourselves. He’ll golf with you, he’ll buy you breakfast, even fly you in a plane…himself, and moreover, take you under his wing to ensure your professional development is sound.

I am proud to know this man and honored to know his family. His wife, Sharon, and daughter Jamie are here to share and support him in this honor – although I’m told not without having to tell some “creative” story about going to Calgary.

Along with his family, please help me congratulate, and honor, Richard Bourassa.