By Marilyn Smulders, Dal News
When he looks back, Phil Leadbeater says it was his good fortune not to have been accepted to med school.
Keen to become a doctor after working 18 years as an army medic, Mr. Leadbeater returned to high school as a mature student to catch up on the math and science credits he needed to do a science degree. But as it turns out, it was his application to Dalhousie’s School of Occupational Therapy that was successful.
“Someone at Dal said ‘yes’ to me and let me occupy one of the 36 seats and it changed my life,” says Mr.
Leadbeater, now an occupational therapist in private practice in Brighton, Ont.
“I think we forget what it means to us. We graduate and go off in our lives and we forget where we came from.”
Recently back at Dalhousie for his 15th anniversary class reunion, Mr. Leadbeater brought with him a painting he commissioned of the Forrest Building, where he attended his occupational therapy classes. The Forrest is also the Dal home for nursing and physiotherapy students.
Titled “Journey through the Forrest,” the painting shows the historic red brick building framed by the foliage of several tall trees. It was inspired by a poem, “Enchanted Forrest,” he wrote upon graduating that recounts the student’s journey to knowledge. “We stumbled over rough terrain/ we stubbed our toes/ we skinned our knees/ yet, at times/ we managed to stop/ and smell the roses along the way.”
He arranged to have the painting made into prints. They are being sold for $10 each with the proceeds going to an admission scholarship fund. The original painting now hangs in the Forrest Building.
“I guess I wanted the alumni to get more involved and remember this place that means so much to us,” he says.
Occupational therapy, Mr. Leadbeater continues, turns out to be perfect for him, “a doer,” who enjoys working hands-on with his clients. He is also a dedicated volunteer who was awarded a medal of honour, the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, for his humanitarian work.
“I recall being able to work with this man, a paraplegic. We had to transfer him from his wheelchair to the bathtub. He had me by the shirt, and I had him, and I went, ‘on the count of three, let’s do this,’” says Mr. Leadbeater. “We’re looking at each other, eye-to-eye, and I’m thinking, ‘wow, I love my job.’ I love the contact with clients, being able to help them.”