“Good Care Requires Good Teamwork”

Abi Sivakumar
Picture of Dr.Hilda Tremblett

How Medicine Shaped Dr. Hilda Tremblett, and How Dr. Tremblett Shaped Medicine

HIROC first learned about Hilda Tremblett, a former physician in Nova Scotia, through our Subscribers at Eastern Health in Newfoundland. In 2022, the Dr. Hilda Tremblett Wellness Centre opened in Bonavista, NL (Hilda’s hometown). So, we set out to find Hilda and to learn more about her. Along the way, everyone we spoke to was in awe of her legacy, and we too have become so inspired by her story and commitment to education.

With Dr. Tremblett’s story, we’re trying something new – amplifying learnings from providers who have roots in the healthcare system, in our continued mission to scale learnings across the reciprocal. Earlier this year we reached out to Hilda to answer a few questions on her journey to becoming a doctor, what education means to her, and her advice for healthcare providers in today’s system. The responses below came in the form of a thoughtful handwritten letter – a first for the Communications team at HIROC. We hope Hilda’s story, spanning 90+, years will inspire you and your teams, just as it has ours.


For HIROC’s Subscribers who don’t know you, can you share a bit about yourself?

Hilda Tremblett: I was born in Bonavista, educated at Bayley’s Cove V. L. School until grade eight, and then at Central School. At the end of grade 11, my teacher, Robert Horwood, suggested that I send for an application form for a J.W. McConnell scholarship to McGill. Thinking I wouldn’t have a chance, I didn’t do that. When I heard that Mr. Horwood sent for it himself and when it arrived, I filled it out and sent it on just to please him. That summer, I took the teacher training course and in September, I was teaching in Greenspond when I got the message that I had won. They released me from my contract, and I went home and then to McGill, where I later graduated B.A. (cum laude). Then, because my father had died suddenly (the day I wrote my last exam), I realized I was on my own. The story is in my book, Courageous or Crazy.


What inspired you to create an award for Cape Breton University (CBU) students in need of financial assistance?

Hilda: I had received so much help from scholarships and bursaries, I wanted to help others. I’ve always donated to McGill since I could afford it. Then I chose CBU for scholarships because I earned my living in Cape Breton.

“I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for many wonderful people believing in me and giving me scholarships all those years ago. I want to be able to provide that opportunity for future students.”Snippet from Hilda Tremblett’s book, Courageous or Crazy


If you were working in today's system, what's one thing you'd tackle to make the system stronger and safer for Canadians?

Hilda: With the amazing advances in technology, I think that patients in outlying areas should be able to (with the help of their doctors) see consultants online instead of having to travel long distances, at often unaffordable cost and book time from work. I know this is being done in some places, but it would be great if doctors in remote places could have that convenience. It’s hard enough practicing in a far-away place; having the convenience of a consultant available would be a real blessing.


What advice do you have for those working in the healthcare space today?

Hilda: When I was in general practice in Grand Bank, I realized that outport nurses were a “breed apart” as they did a lot of things that doctors were doing because there was no one else to do it. To hear a story about a great nurse, read Myra Bennet’s book “Don’t Have Your Baby in the Dory.” She was such an amazing woman. Nurses don’t often get the credit they deserve. I’ve always felt that treatment requires teamwork: doctors, nurses, aids and technologists all working together for the betterment of their patients. In summary, good care requires good teamwork.

Thank you to Ken Baird, Ron Johnson and Eliza Swyers for getting us in touch with Hilda.

Bonavista community leader, Eliza Swyers, shared so many impactful stories with our team. She left us with these parting words,

“Hilda has always been a rebel with a cause – she still is. She gets you to challenge yourself, and helps you realize you can go beyond the limits you think you have.”

Finally, we thought we’d close with a couple quotes from Hilda’s book:

“For any young woman reading this book, my hope is that I will inspire you to go for it, but be prepared to work hard and don’t be afraid.”

“Born and raised on the windy shores of Bonavista, Newfoundland, I am reminded of a wonderful quote from T.E Lawrence’s book Lawrence of Arabia – 'Big things have small beginnings.'"

Thank you, Hilda for sharing your story, and your reflections on healthcare today. We echo the sentiment that good care requires good teamwork. And good care requires a safe system.

Subscribers with stories on building a safer healthcare system are encouraged to share them with us by emailing [email protected].