A fellow student in the Faculty of Medicine once joked to Emilia Bartellas that “you can’t swing a stethoscope in the Health Sciences Centre without hitting a Bartellas.”
Emilia, her brother, Michael, and her sister, Katrina, are all headed for careers as doctors. Emilia will be the first to graduate, collecting her MD at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre on Thursday, June 1.
But the call goes deeper than that: Their mother, Dr. Maeve Kelly, is a pediatrician and their father, Dr. Elias Bartellas, is an obstetrician/gynecologist. The apples didn’t fall far from the trees.
“I can’t get too far on the hospital floors or in most places in the province before someone, patients or staff, catches a glimpse of my name tag and has a wonderful story about “Dr. Bart” to share,” said Emilia proudly.
“The next question that always ensues: ‘Was it you who painted the sign?’”
(For anyone who’s passed Dr. Bartellas’ medical office on Freshwater Road in St. John’s, it’s likely they noticed the child-like, hand-painted sign on the building. Many have speculated on whether one of his kids made it. The answer is “yes” but they’re not revealing who.)
A natural evolution
All three siblings took very different paths before arriving at the Faculty of Medicine.
Katrina studied finance and spent her spare time involved in mental-health initiatives; Michael started with a bachelor of science, went on to complete an industrial carpentry diploma and then graduated with a master of science in medicine, applied health services research, at Memorial.
Meanwhile, Emilia, who is graduating as part of the first expanded class size in the doctorate of medicine (MD) program, started her academic career in violin at the University of Toronto, eventually graduating with a B.Sc. in biochemistry.
She was also active in the social justice community, having been heavily involved with Amnesty International and working for Oxfam Canada. To top it all off, she is also considered by some to be one of the best fiddlers of her generation in the province.
“I didn’t get into medical school on the first try. It certainly was disappointing, initially. However, looking back on that year it ended up being a wonderful year of moving back home to Newfoundland, working several jobs and playing the fiddle all over the world with a band called The Dardanelles.”
All three siblings credit their parents for influencing their path in life. They describe their mom and dad as lifelong learners, caring physicians and amazing teachers.
“One of my favourite days of clerkship was when I was on pediatrics and on call with the neonatal resuscitation team,” Emilia recalled.
“The team was called into the operating room where my dad was the OB/GYN performing the C-section and then, we brought the baby to the neonatal floor where I was working at the time, and the child’s pediatrician was my mom.”
Emilia says that, as a child, she didn’t truly understand what her parents did during the day. Now, having had the opportunity to work as a clinical clerk with both of her parents, she says she understands better what the two physicians actually do. She says she was “boggled” to find out what their day-to-day work lives entailed.
“They did all this, every day, while I was at school and I had no idea! I’m sure most children come to realize this. However, it was amazing to experience it first-hand.”
“Within our family there is a real understanding of the triumphs and struggles that go along with studying medicine.”
All three Bartellas children agree that humour, music and stories are the cornerstones of their family dynamic. But support and pride are constants.
“Within our family there is a real understanding of the triumphs and struggles that go along with studying medicine, which has been helpful in many ways,” explained Michael.
As a family, they all love music. All three kids play the violin and so does their dad, and their mom sings in a choir. They admit to having the odd jam session at the Bartellas household.
“Those who have been to our Christmas bonanzas know that we host every instrument known to man and will enthusiastically play these instruments without having the skill to do so and force them upon our guests as well until the early hours of the morning,” noted Katrina.
“Our family is undeniably close. We’re boisterous and we constantly joke around with each other. In both the Cypriot and Irish cultures, family comes first and this was always evident when we were growing up.”
As young physicians, Dr. Kelly came to Newfoundland and Labrador from Dublin, Ireland, to work in Come by Chance. Dr. Bartellas came from Cyprus to St. John’s after studying in Israel.
“I have the advantage of asking Emilia and Michael for tips throughout every step of the program, which has been an absolute blessing.”
It’s been 10 years since the whole family has lived in the same city. The siblings say they love going through the experience of medical school together.
“There is an undeniable comfort in knowing that two of the people that I love most are nearby,” said Katrina.
“As the most recent Bartellas to join the Memorial medical community, I have the advantage of asking Emilia and Michael for tips throughout every step of the program, which has been an absolute blessing.”
Emilia will specialize in family medicine at the University of Ottawa after graduation.