Dr. Myron Semkuley
MD, CCFP, LM
When Dr. Myron Semkuley was a young boy in Alberta he could see the Calgary General Hospital from his house, and he decided early on that he wanted to work there as a doctor.
“Growing up in a poor family, the idea of becoming a doctor was as exotic and impossible an idea as going to Mars,” said Dr. Semkuley. “My parents were great supporters of education and they encouraged us to work hard. So, I did.”
He attended the University of Alberta, where he completed his degree in medicine in 1964. He decided he wanted to be a generalist physician. “I wanted to be able to care for the whole person and the family, not a disease, specifically.”
Family medicine residency training did not yet exist in 1964, so Dr. Semkuley undertook a one-year internship at Calgary General. Then he went to work for a clinic in a small village in British Columbia, and he soon realized he needed more training. He returned to Calgary and joined the fledgling family medicine program. As he was finishing, the first Certification Examination in Family Medicine was offered, so he wrote it.
Having successfully completed the exam, he opened a medical practice in Calgary and taught in the new Department of Family Medicine at the University of Calgary. He was also an examiner for the College of Family Physicians of Canada for many years. His path of mentoring and training new family physicians was set. Little did he know this was also preparing him for the second phase of his career, which involved supporting refugees and impoverished people around the world.
Dr. Semkuley had dreams of working oversees, following in the footsteps of Dr. Norman Bethune and others. When their kids were old enough, Dr. Semkuley and his wife, Elaine, who was a pharmacist, got involved in efforts to deliver medical supplies, education, and other supports to refugees fleeing Myanmar at the country’s border with Thailand.
This experience led the couple to found Medical Mercy Canada in 1998. This non-religious, non-partisan, registered Canadian charity supports impoverished people and refugees in various parts of the world. After starting their humanitarian work nearly 30 years ago out of their garage and suitcases, today the couple works with a few hundred donors and volunteers.
Dr. Semkuley and his wife have received numerous honours, including the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award for Lifelong Achievement (2015), the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Alberta Alumni Association (2010), the Canadian Club of Calgary’s Humanitarian Award (2009), and the City of Calgary’s Citizen of the Year Award (2003). They also received an Honorary Citizenship Award from the Government of the Kozova Region, Ukraine (2006).
“About once a week I reflect on how fortunate I’ve been in my lifetime. We’ve had trials and difficulties; however, I’ve been able to do what I love and help people. While I’m not in active practice anymore I still support, mentor, and connect people. I will continue to help for as long as I can walk and talk.”