by Deborah Shatz
(EJNews) – What do the Beth Shalom congregation of Edmonton and the Arthritis Society of Alberta and the NWT have in common? Most noteworthy, they share the highest regard for Dr. Anthony S. Russell, a trail blazing leader in the field of Rheumatology and an important long standing contributing member of Beth Shalom.
The two groups came together on March 26 at the Fantasyland Hotel to pay tribute to Dr. Russell and his many accomplishments at a truly wonderful event called “The Joint Affair.”
The formal event was held in the exquisite ballroom at the Fantasyland Hotel attracting colleagues, students, friends and family members as well as Beth Shalom congregants. The evening began with a reception that included a congenial atmosphere to mingle with drinks and a variety of delicious hors d’oeurves.
The evening was emceed by Dr. Steven Katz, President of Beth Shalom and also a Dr. of Rheumatology who considers Dr. Russell a mentor and a luminary in his field. Dr. Katz welcomed the audience and said what an incredible honour it was to acknowledge Dr. Russell both professionally and as an active and generous member of the Jewish community. He said that Dr. Russell is one of three wise and compassionate physicians, (along with Dr. John Percy and Dr. Paul Davis) who have made rheumatology the success that it has become in Edmonton, at the University of Alberta and throughout central and northern Alberta.
Jewish Federation of Edmonton CEO Debby Shoctor led the audience with the singing of O’Canada and Hatikvah and Beth Shalom Rabbi Kliel Rose followed with a short dvar. He said that Beth Shalom is delighted to be joining with the Arthritis Society as a co-sponsor of this special tribute to Dr. Russell. He said, “As a community, we recognize the critical role you have played as a pioneer in furthering this particular medical specialty here in Alberta.”
He continued, “We are here today to honour a man who has great zeal, great proficiency and great skill, but he also has great kindness and great humility. Mazal Tov to you and your wife Alison, may we all be fortunate to continue to learn from you and may you always know how much you are loved and adored by your congregation.”
Before introducing Janet Yale, President and CEO of The Arthritis Society, Dr. Katz explained that the synagogue’s portion of the funds raised at “The Joint Affair” will be used to continue the necessary infrastructure and beautification work needed at Beth Shalom. A portion of the funds will also be used to establish The Dr. Anthony S. Russell Rheumatology Scholarship Fund which will encourage advanced training and research opportunities within the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Alberta.
Janet Yale said that the Arthritis Society thanks Dr. Russell for his “decades of tireless work delivering expert care to the people of Alberta and the field of rheumatology.” She said that Dr. Russell is “a builder in the truest sense of the word – that he has dedicated his career to building better lives for arthritis sufferers. This scholarship fund is a fitting legacy to continue and to build on his work – to advance the goal of putting an end to this disease and the incredible emotional stress and physical pain that accompanies it.”
Dr. Paul Davis spoke next and joked that with all the accolades being heaped on Dr. Russell, he thought he must be at the wrong dinner. He said that Tony was a great sportsman who always liked to win, that he had been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and that his jokes were pretty dry. However, try as he did to poke his esteemed friend and colleague down a few notches, he had to admit that he agrees with all the praise that had been given Dr. Russell. He said that one of Dr. John Percy’s glowing successes was recruiting Tony Russell in 1971 and that it was his privilege to help build the foundation of rheumatology in Alberta with Dr. Russell and Dr. Percy.
Dr. Davis then announced that the first three recipients of the Dr. Paul Davis Scholarship were in the audience. They were called to the podium and presented with certificates of scholarship.
A highlight of the evening was the introduction of Dr. Anthony Russell by his twin sons Alex and Mark Russell. Alex began the introduction with an hilarious parody of their dad – including gestures and accent – which had everyone in stitches.
Mark followed with a heartfelt personal tribute to their dad. He said that “love of faith and excellence in his chosen profession are the two reasons we are gathered here to honour my dad. Beth Shalom and the University of Alberta are the foundations on which my parents have built their life – a life full of connection and meaning for themselves. My brother and I are blessed to be a part of that life that we have shared with them as a family.”
He added that that their father has had great guidance in his life, “faith is his spiritual guide, work guides his mind and most important of all is his heart and our mother guides that. Her lack of creaking joints and her love for our dad have helped strengthen him and will sustain him for the years to come.”
Dr. Russell took to the podium and said that he is a symbol of the dramatic advancements that have taken place in arthritis care over the past fifty years and in the field of rheumatology. He said, “to see the impact that we have on our patients’ lives is humbling and an honour in itself.
“In Edmonton, we have an excellent team covering the whole of Northern Alberta and the Territories. In my field, no one achieves anything on their own and our achievements have been the result of a cohesive and collaborative team. This progress has involved a wide range of interventions from several groups of professionals including doctors, nurses, rehabilitation practitioners, and the pharmaceutical industry…their innovations have been staggering.”
Dr. Russell noted that there have been tremendous advancements but there is still much work to be done in the care and treatment of such ailments as fibromyalgia and in discovering the mysteries of the need for so many knee and hip replacements.
He said above all else he is incredibly grateful to his wife Alison, the backbone of his family. He thanked his sons and their wives for attending the gala. He thanked Steven Katz, the Beth Shalom team and the organizers of the gala as well as everyone else in attendance.
The evening closed to the wonderful smooth jazz stylings of the Bobby Cairns Quintet. A perfect ending to a lovely evening in tribute to a very deserving honouree and in support of two worthy causes.
Enjoy our photo gallery from the event: