After 50 years and almost 5,000 delivered babies, Red Deer’s Dr. Ray Hulyk is hanging up his stethoscope.
“My last patient is a 5 o’clock patient on the 31st of March,” says the 77-year-old from his office at St. Mary Family and Walk-in Clinic.
But if you imagine he’s done caring for Red Deerians, think again.
Hulyk plans to go back to school to establish his credentials as a seniors advocate. He envisions being part of an advocacy team of doctors, nurses, lawyers and caregivers to help the elderly.
“There are many people marooned in their own house who don’t have any contact from family and friends in the outside world,” he says. “They are the ones who need some help.”
Hulyk came to Red Deer in 1967 after serving a three-year stint in the Armed Forces, which helped him with his education.
He was a flight surgeon at CFB Cold Lake, as well as the family doctor for the families of military personnel at the bustling base. It was an introduction to medicine that allowed him to test his skills at a wide variety of specialties.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” he recalls. “In those days, Cold Lake was considered to be an isolation base.”
To reach the base in the mid-1960s meant driving several hundred kilometres up a gravel road.
Like so many who have made Red Deer home, he initially planned to stay a year or two. But he was soon won over.
“It was the general public,” he says, when asked why, “and the patients I found to be very pleasant and progressive.”
As well, planning was already underway for a new hospital and the community’s medical community was adding more and more specialists.
“I chose to do a lot of low-risk maternity (care),” he says. “I delivered close to 5,000 babies in my time in Red Deer.”
He has never lost his passion for caring for his patients and retirement age of 65 went by with little thought of stopping.
Some of his patients have been coming to him for almost 50 years. “You’re almost a father to them, or a grandpa to a lot of patients.”
It will be difficult to leave his life’s work and that’s why he wants to continue to help in the community through work with seniors.
“I’m not ready to quit and go to pasture. I want to keep busy.
“I’ve had a fabulous time. I’d do it over and over again.”