I am the I in IWK – Dr. Tony Otley

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Dr. Tony Otley is head of the Division of Gastroenterology & Nutrition here at the IWK. He has been associated with the hospital since 1992, when he and his now wife, Dr. Beth Cummings, began their residencies with the health centre. After a few years in Toronto working for SickKids, Otley and Cummings moved back to the Maritimes in 1999 to start their family, and have been with the IWK ever since.

Otley’s commitment to Maritime children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) goes well beyond the walls of the IWK. Every summer, you can find Otley on the shores of Aylesford Lake, visiting Brigadoon Village and its campers, all of whom are living with a form of crohn’s or colitis.

‘Camp Guts and Glory’ is a one week summer camp for children with IBD and allows children to have a full camping experience in an environment that’s tailored to their special needs.

“What amazes me is what an impact five days can have on the kids,” says Otley. “Not only for the camper, but for the whole family. Parents have a sense of trust and relief to know that their child is safe.”

“For many of the kids, in any of the camps, they can’t have a camp experience outside Brigadoon. For many, this is the only camp experience that they’ve had.”

Brigadoon Village services many chronic conditions, each with its own special week. With camps like Camp Silly-Yak (for celiac disease), Camp Carpe Diem (for epilepsy), Camp Kedooopse (for bereavement) and Camp BELIEVE (for parental mental illness), Brigadoon Village is the largest camp of its kind in Canada.

As a board member and active partner of Brigadoon, Otley is one of the camp’s biggest advocates for all the good it creates in the children’s lives. He tells of times when patients come into the IWK and see their camp friends while here, or recognize the health staff from their week at camp.

“I’m a big believer in getting team members to go to the camp, and there’s many reasons why that’s important. It allows our team members to see the kids, and sometimes the parents, in a different context than as inpatients or in clinics. Similarly, it’s great for the kids to see the health care team members outside that context,” says Otley.

This year, Otley and his team will be visiting the camp between the dates of August 11-16 as Camp Guts and Glory comes around for another week of life-changing experiences. As for the future, Otley says that camp success is bitter sweet.

“I’m proud on one hand that we have the biggest, best camps, but on the other hand, having that big camp means that there’s that many kids that have this chronic condition.”

With the IWK research teams, Otley continues making a difference for kids with IBD and contributing to finding better treatments, and an eventual cure, for the disease that affects so many.