We have learned of the passing of a dear friend and valued colleague, Dr. Tom Cheetham who passed away Monday August 20, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Many staff knew Dr. Cheetham personally, as did many of our clients. His passion for the healthcare of individuals with intellectual disabilities began during his medical school training where he was the house parent for a group home in Hamilton. He completed his family medicine residency at Oxford Regional Centre in Woodstock and eventually became the Chief Physician until the Centre closed. In 1982 he opened his family practice in Woodstock and continued to advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
His career continued to grow and took on the role of Director of the Developmental Disabilities Program at University of Western Ontario in London, which also included taking on the role of Chief Physician at Southwestern Regional Centre. He was Chief Physician at Rideau Regional Centre and worked closely with Dr. Bruce McCreary and the program at Queens. During this time, he was an active participant and contributor to the Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Guidelines developed and published by Surrey Place in 2005.
Dr. Cheetham’s career continued to take him to new heights; he was recruited for the role of physician at Orange Grove Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He returned home to Surrey Place for a brief time and then returned to Nashville until his death as Deputy Commissioner Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Despite being in Tennessee, Dr. Cheetham never forgot his Canadian roots and continued to be an active contributor of the Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Guidelines 2018.
Colleagues will remember him as a strong advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He was instrumental in having the Surrey Place Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Guidelines and Tools published and used in the United States through the Vanderbilt University.
He has authored book chapters and articles on the topic of physical health and tips for health care providers to advocate and support individuals and their caregivers in order to continue to receive the best health care possible in both countries.
He was the ultimate teacher; he always had time to talk to anyone and would also take the time to make sure the issue was addressed. He was a caring and compassionate man who always seemed to be able to interact with any individual despite their level of functioning. He was never known to be seen without his tie; casual dress attire for Dr. Cheetham was rolling up his sleeves on his white crisp dress shirts.
We have lost a dear friend and colleague and the developmental disabilities community mourns the loss of a compassionate advocate. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.