Bill Silver (HS'49, HSU'50)

Bill Silver (HS'49, HSU'50)

After practicing medicine for over fifty years, orthopaedic surgeon Bill Silver (HS’49, HSU’50) still proclaims with gusto that the best part of medicine is orthopaedics because “that’s the front line and that’s where the action is.”

He explains that most people suffer injuries like broken bones and sprains over their lifetimes. This reality fuelled his desire and devotion to choose a specialty in orthopaedics as a relevant profession. “I knew I was going to school for a lot of years and so I wanted to do something that was significant and important to many people,” says Bill.

His educational background is extensive and demonstrative of the commitment required to become a surgeon. After a year at Luther College at the University of Saskatchewan Regina Campus, four years at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and two at McGill University, he graduated in 1956 with a Doctor of Medicine and a Master of Surgery (MDCM) from McGill. He did a general internship for two years in Tacoma, Washington, and in Saskatoon.

He then practiced family medicine for five-and-a-half years in Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan. His choice to work as a general practitioner for a few years was twofold: to learn the nuts and bolts of medicine and to earn money to fund years of medical school and post-graduate education.

He returned to the U of S for four years of post-graduate training in orthopaedic surgery and, in 1967, became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada (FRCSC). He then did one year of research in Saskatoon and one in Scotland, transplanting joints in animals.

For the next fifteen years, Bill worked as an academic orthopaedic surgeon; splitting his time between lecturing in the classroom as an assistant professor at the U of S medical school and in the operating room, teaching students orthopaedic procedures. In 1988, he moved to Regina where he worked as a surgeon at the General Hospital for ten years.

For Bill, his career as an academic surgeon was the best of both worlds, since he had the opportunity to perform many life-changing surgeries. “I Iike fixing things and, as it helps many people, it’s a good career.” He also loved teaching. Coming from a family of teachers, he feels it is in his blood.

Semi-retired since 1998, Bill now works in the O.R. once a week, assisting with operations. He likes keeping up with procedures and changes in the medical profession. He has also been active in medical leadership, sitting on various boards and also serving the medical association, both provincially and federally.

And the eighty-three-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. For nearly thirty years he has competed in triathlons and this past fall, he ran a half-marathon and finished in first place for his age group. But his biggest accomplishments in this arena include participating in four world Olympic distance competitions and an Ironman, in 2002. “Doing triathlons has been a huge, amazing experience. Just to participate was great,” says Bill, adding that there are great benefits. “The training keeps my weight down, gives me energy, and keeps me fit.”

Bill has also been a member of The Gideons for the past twenty years, distributing Bibles locally and attending weekly prayer meetings. He deeply values the fellowship he shares here in regular prayer.

Ten years ago, Bill and his wife, Hilary, purchased a farm near Craven from her family. With a lot of hard work, including fencing the 300-acre property, they converted the former horse farm into one tailored for bison.

“We just simply thought raising bison would be interesting,” says Bill, explaining that it was a steep learning curve at first. Bison need to graze on ten acres of grass per animal so the farm typically supports thirty bison at a given time. Other than grass and water, bison have few needs. Because of their thick coats and metabolic rates that don’t require increased food until extremely cold temperatures, they don’t need barns; they are well-adapted to our frigid winters.

With a modest farmhouse on the bison farm, Bill and Hilary spend two to three days a week caring for these animals and have grown to appreciate their wild and independent nature. They sell their bison through farmgate sales, which means buyers must reside within fifty kilometres of the farm. Given their small herd, their bison farm is more of a hobby than a money-maker, says Bill.

Remembering Luther College (Appreciating Luther)

Bill credits much of his success in life to the experience he had as a young student at Luther. The school’s exceptional academic program gave him necessary study skills to succeed in years of medical school. But he also says it was the whole atmosphere at Luther that had a lifelong impact on him. “It’s the culture at Luther. It’s established and it’s so positive, encouraging and respectful. And the respect goes both ways,” says Bill.

He also says being exposed to Luther’s “Christian context” during his time at the College contributed to his conversion to Christianity when he was thirty-five. At the time, he says, he was “maxed out” at work, with long hours and many stresses and demands on him, both professionally and personally. He says everything was crashing down on him. It was becoming a Christian that saved him and gave him renewed focus, energy, and balance.

Alumni Bio

Name: William Silver
Graduated: 1949
Education: B.A., B.Sc. (Med), U. of S., Doctor of Medicine and a Master of Surgery (MDCM) from McGill University 1956, M.Sc. (Immunology) Aberdeen University, Scotland, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada (FRCSC) 1967
Career History: 5 ½ years as a Family Physician, 1970-1998 orthopaedic surgeon (Associate Professor of Surgery, U of S)          
Hobbies: Triathlons, marathons, bison farmer
Personal Notes: “I’ve worked hard for reform of health care over the course of my career, but I realize that even more important are the spiritual challenges we face.”