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lives lived

Dr.William G (Bill) Macrae.

Dr.William G (Bill) Macrae: Family Man. Mentor. Physician. Friend. Born April 30, 1940, in Toronto; died July 7, 2017 in Collingwood, Ont.; of metastatic sarcoma; aged 77.

Kind. True. Necessary. The words by which Bill Macrae lived his life. Compassion was likely instilled in him as a young boy, as his family produced a long line of missionaries. But what made Dad different is that he truly practised what he preached.

As an ophthalmologist, he excelled at his craft. He possessed that beautiful blend of patience, integrity and humour that he brought with him into each surgical case.

He valued the art and science of the craft, but he truly respected his patient. They had put their trust in him as a doctor and he would ensure he earned it.

But it was what he did behind the scenes that created a legacy for future generations of doctors.

He recognized the importance of mentorship and guidance. In a competitive surgical world, this was all too often forgotten and new doctors were left to fend for themselves.

Bill, however, felt that teaching was a calling and that it was incumbent upon him to support their journey.

He was a principled man. He felt that, as a teacher, you must take responsibility for the next generation and agree to assume the risks involved. Your priorities as a surgeon need to adjust – patient first, then student, then you.

He believed in letting a student take charge of a case, allow them to make a mistake and then help them fix it. He created a culture of respect, of mentorship and of trust.

His students have remarked that whenever they now operate, they consider, "What would Bill do here?"

The concept of paying it forward was instilled in every resident Bill taught.

Although a renowned surgeon, he was never more than a phone call away for any friend or family member who had any sort of medical query or emergency.

His knowledge was meant to help others, not just for an income.

Growing up, our house was always filled with guests – whether for Sunday dinner or a holiday celebration.

We would ask why so-and-so was joining us, and Dad would reply that wasn't it nice that we could share with them? It wasn't about entertaining; it was about making sure that anyone who may be alone felt welcome in our home and into our family.

We learned early from both Mom and Dad, who celebrated 52 years of marriage a month before he died, that caring and respecting others was just as important as loving your own family.

At the start of his career, with unfavourable work hours that often meant he missed dinner time, and skating and soccer games, when his three children were young, we never felt as if Dad was absent. He would often sneak in from a shift at the hospital and wake my older sister and I to share a pizza at midnight.

Those late-night meals were special. He made us feel as if nothing were more important than spending time with us – even if it was well past bedtime.

Upon his retirement from his surgical practice in 2010, the University of Toronto honored Bill with the Excellence in Postgraduate Medical Education Award and established the William Macrae Fund for Excellence in Ophthalmic Education.

His family, friends and his students benefited from having been touched by his grace, we all miss him dearly.

Susie Macrae is Bill's daugther.

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