Published: 06:00, 24 March 2021
Messages of gratitude have poured in for a well-known family doctor who is retiring after decades spent serving the town.
Dr Sandra Chandler is stepping down after 30 years as a GP at Whitstable Health Centre, having devoted her entire career to Whitstable Medical Practice.
News of her leaving has sparked a flood of messages from patients, expressing their “immeasurable thanks” for her service.
Dr Chandler began as a registrar at Whitstable Medical Practice in 1987 as part of her training, before becoming a GP partner at the practice in 1991, at the age of 30.
“And I’ve been there ever since,” she said. “I feel I’ve grown up with the practice and the patients.
“As well as me going through highs and lows with the patients, they’ve been through highs and lows with me.”
One of those lows came when Dr Chandler was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, shortly after becoming a partner at the practice.
“On the day I should have started I was in fact being admitted to hospital,” she recalled. “So I started my job six weeks late; the partners were wonderful and very supportive.”
Dr Chandler says she still treasures cards and letters of support she was sent by patients, when the cancer returned several years later.
“Given the prognosis there was then for ovarian cancer, I was very lucky it was picked up when it was, and very lucky that I’m still around,” she said.
Since joining the practice as one of its first female GPs, Dr Chandler has maintained an interest in women’s health, and has been closely involved in its family planning clinic.
She has also taken part in the London to Brighton bike ride in aid of the British Heart Foundation on several occasions, along with her colleagues.
Her room at Whitstable Health Centre is well-known for the stuffed animals that inhabit it - gifted to her by patients who know of her lifelong fondness for giraffes.
Dr Chandler will officially retire at the end of this month, at the age of 60.
Once she steps down, she looks forward to spending more time with her mother, and on her hobbies; including quilting, singing with Canterbury Choral Society, and cycling with her husband.
“The entire last year has been very strange, and it’s a very strange time to be finishing what I’m doing,” she said. “It feels a bit like I’m slipping out of the back door.”
But Dr Chandler hopes to mark her retirement with friends and colleagues once the pandemic has ended.
“I’ve been very lucky,” she added. “The patients at Whitstable are lovely, and I feel that the wonderful staff I work with are my work family.
“I shall miss everybody very much.”
Dr John Ribchester, senior and executive partner at Whitstable Medical Practice, describes Dr Chandler as “much-loved” by both colleagues and patients alike.
“She’s devoted her entire professional career to being a GP in Whitstable,” he said.
“She’s been a wonderful partner and colleague, who will be missed for her compassion for her patients, and her dedication to Whitstable Medical Practice.”
Many patients have penned heartfelt messages, thanking Dr Chandler for having helped them through births, raising children, receiving diagnoses and treatment, and enduring difficult and painful times in their lives.
One said: “I have been your patient for 30 years and in my opinion you are the most caring doctor I have had the privilege to know. Thank you for always being there for me.”
Another described Dr Chandler as “so diligent, so kind and so thorough; a real comfort in times of need”, while another patient said: “You have helped me in very difficult circumstances and I owe you immeasurable thanks.”
Dr Chandler’s position will be taken over by Dr Polly Poraj-Wilczynska. She will share the role with Dr Sungie Carabine, who has job-shared with Dr Chandler since last April.