Alberta’s Medical History: Profile Introductions.

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“There is no longer serious doubt that in Rae
we have if not the most important,
at least the most challenging figure
in the history of the 19th century arc

Early Western Canadian history includes some illustrious but not well known explorers, like Henry Kelsey, Anthony Henday, and until recently, David Thompson. Kelsey remained obscure because his diaries were buried in a castle, following a controversy in Northern Ireland over two hundred years ago. They were not discovered until 1926. Dr. Rae’s three volume personal diaries were recently uncovered at the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge, England. His first biography was completed in 1985.

Dr. John Rae’s major achievements were not as a physician or fur trader rather as a geographer completing the mapping of the northern Canadian coastline and the northwest passageway.

Rae’s fame resulted from the four northern Canadian searches he undertook from 1846-1854 to confirm the demise of the Sir John Franklin Expedition. On his second search for Franklin in 1848/1849, Drs. John Rae and John Richardson passed through what is now Northern Alberta on their way to descend the Mackenzie River. The second search found no trace of Franklin or his ships between the Mackenzie and Coppermine Rivers. Rae returned to northeastern Alberta in late 1849 before returning to Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie near Great Slave Lake. While awaiting further instructions for a third search for Franklin, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s (HBC), through Governor Simpson appointed Rae Chief Factor for the Mackenzie District.

In the spring of 1850, the British Navy and the HBC agreed to send Rae for a third search of the northern coastline east of the Coppermine River. Although he was materially assisted by two locally made small boats and an inflatable rubber dinghy to cross the river estuaries, the Rae expedition was again unsuccessful.

Rae’s fourth search in 1853/1854, which started at the northwest end of Hudson Bay, was successful in finding Franklin relics and the disastrous outcome of the expedition.

Early Western Canadian history includes some illustrious but not well known explorers, like Henry Kelsey, Anthony Henday, and until recently, David Thompson. Kelsey remained obscure because his diaries were buried in a castle, following a controversy in Northern Ireland over two hundred years ago. They were not discovered until 1926. Dr. Rae’s three volume personal diaries were recently uncovered at the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge, England. His first biography was completed in 1985.

Dr. John Rae’s major achievements were not as a physician or fur trader rather as a geographer completing the mapping of the northern Canadian coastline and the northwest passageway.

Rae’s fame resulted from the four northern Canadian searches he undertook from 1846-1854 to confirm the demise of the Sir John Franklin Expedition. On his second search for Franklin in 1848/1849, Drs. John Rae and John Richardson passed through what is now Northern Alberta on their way to descend the Mackenzie River. The second search found no trace of Franklin or his ships between the Mackenzie and Coppermine Rivers. Rae returned to northeastern Alberta in late 1849 before returning to Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie near Great Slave Lake. While awaiting further instructions for a third search for Franklin, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s (HBC), through Governor Simpson appointed Rae Chief Factor for the Mackenzie District.

In the spring of 1850, the British Navy and the HBC agreed to send Rae for a third search of the northern coastline east of the Coppermine River. Although he was materially assisted by two locally made small boats and an inflatable rubber dinghy to cross the river estuaries, the Rae expedition was again unsuccessful.

Early Western Canadian history includes some illustrious but not well known explorers, like Henry Kelsey, Anthony Henday, and until recently, David Thompson. Kelsey remained obscure because his diaries were buried in a castle, following a controversy in Northern Ireland over two hundred years ago. They were not discovered until 1926. Dr. Rae’s three volume personal diaries were recently uncovered at the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge, England. His first biography was completed in 1985.

Dr. John Rae’s major achievements were not as a physician or fur trader rather as a geographer completing the mapping of the northern Canadian coastline and the northwest passageway.

Rae’s fame resulted from the four northern Canadian searches he undertook from 1846-1854 to confirm the demise of the Sir John Franklin Expedition. On his second search for Franklin in 1848/1849, Drs. John Rae and John Richardson passed through what is now Northern Alberta on their way to descend the Mackenzie River. The second search found no trace of Franklin or his ships between the Mackenzie and Coppermine Rivers. Rae returned to northeastern Alberta in late 1849 before returning to Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie near Great Slave Lake. While awaiting further instructions for a third search for Franklin, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s (HBC), through Governor Simpson appointed Rae Chief Factor for the Mackenzie District.

In the spring of 1850, the British Navy and the HBC agreed to send Rae for a third search of the northern coastline east of the Coppermine River. Although he was materially assisted by two locally made small boats and an inflatable rubber dinghy to cross the river estuaries, the Rae expedition was again unsuccessful.

Rae’s fourth search in 1853/1854, which started at the northwest end of Hudson Bay, was successful in finding Franklin relics and the disastrous outcome of the expedition.


“The ashes of many a campfire around which Dr. MacKay sat
with his Indian and Halfbreed companions half of a century ago
have long since been scattered by the winds of the north,
but the visions he saw in the blue smoke
of the dying embers are fast becoming a reality.”

Dr. William Morrison MacKay has been widely acknowledged as the Pioneer Doctor of Alberta. However, he was not the first physician to practice on the prairies. Hudson Bay Company (HBC) doctors practiced at York Factory as early as 1668. The future Dr. John Bunn was born in Norway House in 1800 and practiced from 1832-1861 in the Red River Settlement. Dr. Alexander Rowand (1816-1899) the son of HBC Factor James Rowand, was born in Edmonton and practiced in Montreal. Dr. William Todd worked as a HBC factor and physician from 1818-1851. He was the first fur trader/physician to be stationed in NWT/Alberta at Ft. Wedderburn (later Ft. Chipewyan) near Lake Athabasca in the 1820s. Dr. MacKay was the first to transfer inland with the HBC and stay in the North West Territories, which he did from 1867-1898. He then moved to Edmonton and practiced there until his death in 1917.


A great raconteur. Everyone liked him. He was
a feature of optimism and vision for the city’s future
a booster for Calgary who tried to put his ideas
into action … one of the most straightforward and
respectable citizens I have ever known.

Dr. Neville Lindsay was the first physician to come to Calgary (August, 1883) and stay, until he retired (1908). He arrived with his brother-in-law Dr. R.G. (later Lieutenant Governor) Brett, who moved to Banff circa 1885. Dr. Lindsay was an early Calgary councillor who held Indian, NWMP and CPR medical contracts. He successfully speculated in real estate by acquiring land in South Calgary near the present Calgary Stampede and Rideau Parks. After subdividing the land he sold most of it to the Canadian Northern Railway in 1911 for over $100,000. He then spent $20,000 on a new house, before abandoning it. For years it was known as Lindsay’s Folly. Lindsay Park, now the Talisman Center, was Dr. Lindsay’s last land link with Calgary.


“…a square shooter, endowed with an abundance
of human kindness, always charming, courteous, and hard working.
His word was as good as his bond”.

Dr. Leverett George deVeber was a third generation United Empire Loyalist. His great-great-grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Gabriel deVeber, served in the British Army during the American War of Independence. After the War, Colonel deVeber received a land grant of 1000 acres south of Saint John, New Brunswick on the Musquash river. The deVebers remained in the Maritimes for the next one hundred years. Leverett George, however, had a wanderlust. He had studied medicine on two different continents, but not in Canada. His specialty became communicable diseases. His avocation was making friends, enough to enter politics in 1898 and win C.A. Magrath’s vacated seat by acclamation. He was never out of politics until his death in 1925. Named to the Senate in 1905, Dr. deVeber’s memory was perpetuated by the naming of prominent Mt deVeber in the Rocky Mountains, visible from the town of Grande Cache, north of Jasper.


… an ebullient, effervescent, entertaining, well read pro westerner,
[he was]…a shrewd judge of character with great drive and persuasion.
His ceaseless activity and broad knowledge were constantly on call.

Dr. James Delamere Lafferty was the physician and NWT/AB Registrar, whose drive and influence guided the North West Territories Medical Council and College from 1901-1906 and the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, from 1906-1911. He was the central figure in the transition of the North West Territories Medical Council (College and Association) to the equivalent organizations in Alberta (1906) and Saskatchewan (1908). The transition did not go smoothly as it occurred during their most rapid period of growth. Post 1905 he faced a legal challenge to his authority and modus operandi.

Although Dr. Lafferty became the Registrar in 1901 on short notice, he brought considerable experience to the position. When he closed the books on the NWT Medical Council in 1906, it was in a strong financial position with cash or equivalent assets valued at over $40,000. It was a testimony to his competence in business and banking.

As the Registrar Lafferty was the physician to whom many came for counsel and advice. Concurrently he handled all the correspondence and information requests to process the registration or credentialed of every physician in the NWT and Alberta.

Years after he retired as the Registrar in 1911, Dr. H.C. Jamieson used Lafferty’s files to record the registration data on over 150 pre1911 registered physicians, in his source book, “Early Medicine in Alberta, the first 75 years”, published by the AMA in 1947.

THE NWMP YEARS 1874-1878

“His observations form one of the most
engaging pictures of life in the
early West that can be found anywhere.
(He was) … articulate, imaginative, adventurous and
terribly interested in the people around him”.

The 1874 NWMP March was a major milestone in Canadian prairie history. Over three hundred new recruits started the 1000 mile, four month march from Dufferin, Manitoba to Fort Macleod, Alberta. At the Sweet Grass Hills west of the Cypress Hills, the Troop divided, with the smaller Division returning under Commissioner G.A. French to winter at Swan River, Manitoba. The larger Division carried on under Assistant Commissioner J.F. Macleod to the empty Fort Whoop Up, before continuing on to the Old Man River site of Fort Macleod in late 1874.

A little known fact is that the NWMP March included two American born – Canadian trained – surgeons: Senior Surgeon Dr. John Kittson and Assistant Surgeon Dr. Richard Barrington Nevitt. Both signed four-year contracts to accompany the men on the March. The two surgeons were the vanguard of many more full-time and part-time NWMP surgeons.

The benefit of having two physicians on the 1874 March was evident from the start. The first week out of Dufferin the March was almost halted. There was an outbreak of diarrhea and dysentery. The disease, variously called, Red River, Mountain unremitting, or typhomalaria fever, was a variable presentation of typhoid fever. It would become the most common cause of NWMP deaths during their first twenty-five years.

When Assistant Commissioner Macleod and his Division arrived at their destination on the Whiskey Trail, the NWMP men immediately built Fort Macleod and a small hospital. Surgeon Nevitt did not wait for patients to arrive. Whether it was sunshine, rain, or a storm, he responded to all medical emergencies over the next three and one half years.

Nevitt became an expert horseman; he needed to be. Many times he would have been lost at night or in whiteouts, if it were not for his horse. Like the rest of the Force, he soon found that the red uniform was too hot in the summer and far too cold in the winter. Between medical calls and trips with Assistant Commissioner Macleod to as far away as Morley, near Banff, Dr. Nevitt put his free time to good use. Besides conducting his regular sick parades, he wrote monthly hospital reports and prepared annual reports of his hospital admissions and patient diagnoses. He wrote frequent letters to the fiance he had left behind in Toronto, and he sketched and painted.

While the primary duties of the NWMP surgeons were to attend to the needs of the NWMP personnel, they also provided medical services to the thousands of settlers, families, Metis, and Aboriginals within the reach of each Fort. Their medical expertise was challenged by the waves of epidemics and infections that swept the prairies: smallpox, influenza, measles, and on a smaller scale, typhoid fever, dysentery, gonorrhea, diphtheria, and tuberculosis. For the smaller posts the NWMP recruited less qualified physicians as Hospital Sergeants.

Originally the NWMP’s existence was intended to be short lived. It was to be continued only until law and order was established and peaceful settlement ensued. The hiring of full time physicians was phased out. They were replaced with local part time contracts, after the CPR crossed the prairies in 1882/83. Where they could the NWMP signed joint medical contracts with the Department of Indian Affairs.

But the NWMP were so effective in establishing and maintaining law and order and responding to the second Northwest (Riel) Rebellion of 1885, they were continued as the RNWMP (1904-1920) and then as the RCMP (after 1920). The “Force” received “Royal” designation in 1904.


“We (sic) shall not look upon his like again”

Western Canada’s medical past has few more illustrious characters than Dr. Robert George Brett of Banff. From the time of his arrival in Winnipeg in 1880 until 1915 he was involved in all the major medical initiatives that established the Colleges, Associations and Medical Faculties in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories (NWT) and Alberta. He was a prominent medical educator, early surgeon, entrepreneur, politician and medical statesman. Dr. Brett was one of the founders of the Manitoba Medical College (1883), and one of the leaders who formed the NWT Medical Council (1889), the AMA (1906), the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons (1906). He led the Western Canadian Medical Federation movement (1907), the prototype of the Medical Council of Canada.

Politically Dr. Brett was the head of the NWT Legislative Advisory Council (1889-1891), leader of the NWT Opposition (1892-1899), a leader of the NWT Responsible Government movement (1891), and one of the early proponents for the division of the NWT into two prairie provinces. By 1915 he was regarded as the grand man of Alberta Medicine to whom everyone turned. Prime Minister Borden acknowledged his contributions, when he appointed Dr. Brett the second Lieutenant Governor of Alberta for two terms from 1915 to 1925. His legacy and our indebtedness to him have grown measurably during the past century, because of the institutions he helped form.

1858 – 1929

“His was a personality that a student encounters rarely …
None … could fail to be influenced by the joyous way
that he went into battle for his patient …
he was … completely patient-centered …
He was first, last and always the doctor.”

Frank Hamilton Mewburn arrived in Winnipeg in March 1882, just in time to play a significant part in the most eventful era in Surgery. No one who came and stayed, did more to lead the advance of surgery in Western Canada than this diminutive, McGill trained, self-taught surgeon.

The west was changing quickly in 1882. The CPR had arrived on the prairies, starting construction from Winnipeg (1881), before reaching Regina (1882), Calgary (1883), and Craigallachie (1885). The Manitoba Medical College began in 1883 and was the first and only MD granting western medical college for the next thirty-eight years. The 1872 built Winnipeg Cottage Hospital was moved and enlarged to become the seventy-two bed Winnipeg General Hospital (WGH) in 1884. The forty-seven day Northwest Rebellion in 1885 brought 5800 soldiers and forty-three physicians to the NWT battlefields and hospitals. The first scheduled transcontinental trains started in June 1886.

With the promise of peace following the Northwest Rebellion came the first wave of immigration to the “free lands”. Following in lock-step were the pioneering practitioners, druggists, pharmacies, hospitals and OR’s. With them came improved sanitation measures and expectations that eastern metropolitan standards of medical care would be imported into the west.

The 1880’s also saw the dawn of intra-abdominal surgery in the western medical world. Dr. Mewburn evolved with it, as it became a specialty within medicine. He was a pioneer in the Mackid tradition.

In 1886 Dr. Mewburn headed west from Winnipeg to the end of the “Turkey Trail” at Coal Banks, now Lethbridge. There he met his intellectual and medical soul mate, Dr. George A. Kennedy. The knowledge and experience of these two pioneers, coupled with their operative skills and astute diagnostic decision-making, led to a remarkable string of surgical and medical accomplishments.

In retrospect the citizenry of Lethbridge and Fort Macleod must have marveled at their good fortune, to have these doctors come and remain in their communities. In true frontier tradition, both Drs. Mewburn and Kennedy answered many calls from their fledgling communities, to contribute beyond their daily medical practices and on-call schedules.

As Mewburn’s surgical reputation grew, his referral radius widened. Financially secure with a 1913 charter Fellowship from the American College of Surgeons in hand, he moved to Calgary and polarized his practice to surgery on a full-time basis. One year later the call of patriotism and the challenges of wartime surgery beckoned. Mewburn had already had a taste of it during the Northwest Rebellion.

Deemed over age (55), Mewburn was refused enlistment. Not dissuaded, in 1915 he went to England at his own expense and joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC). He was promoted to the Head of Surgery at the Canadian General Hospital #15 at Taplow.

Two years after his 1919 demobilization, the new UofA Dean of Medicine, Dr. A.C. Rankin, approached Mewburn, over Dr. Edgar W. Allin and John S. McEachern, to become the first full-time Professor and Head of Surgery at the UofA. His appointment was one of the conditions of the 1920 Rockefeller Grant to the UofA.

Driven by impetuosity, surgical audacity, and a streak of rugged independence, Mewburn’s string of prairie surgical firsts was unrivaled. But it was his love of teaching and the respect he received from his students, that became his most lasting mark on medicine in Alberta. In 1929 his surgical career was shortened when he died while still in harness. It brought to a halt Mewburn’s desire to record the highlights, experiences, events and friendships that he regretted had not been undertaken sooner.


“Contemptuous of a cloistered sheltered life,
(He)…Spurned the tedium of the trodden ways;
Eager to blaze new trails through lands unknown,
To trace new trails across the foaming Sea,
Eager to sew where others had not sewn,
Eager to challenge unknown Destiny”

Dr. George A. Kennedy was the first full time physician to join the NWMP, then stay and practice in the NWT/Alberta. He did for thirty-five years. Kennedy came to Fort Macleod in 1878 as a NWMP surgeon, at the age of twenty. His UofT Dean of Medicine had referred him to the NWMP because he was under twenty-one and was too young to sign prescriptions. He also loved the outdoors.

During Dr. Kennedy’s eight years with the NWMP (1878-1887), he carefully observed and succinctly described medicine on the Canadian frontier. His annual reports are the most explicit, informative, and consistently well-told summaries, that describe the diseases the NWMP surgeons treated, the diagnoses they made, and the hygiene measures they introduced.

But it was not straightforward medicine. Having to treat the Sioux who came into Canada with Sitting Bull from 1876-1881 provided a high risk diversion from the mundane life of daily NWMP sick parades. When it came to treatment, Dr. Kennedy had only the most frugal of drug cupboards.

The fact that he stayed, renewed his NWMP contract, settled in Fort Macleod, and remained a prairie medical leader attests to the depth of his calling and the medical competence he brought to it. His colleagues could always call upon him, and did as the medical organizations in the NWT and Alberta were formed. Dr. Kennedy was in the vanguard that brought full time physicians to the prairies, built the hospitals, introduced medicine and surgery, and set the professional example to be followed.

Arriving in Fort Macleod in October 1878, Dr. Kennedy became responsible for a 22,500 square mile tract of land in southern Alberta along the 49th parallel. A year after his arrival he faced his first outbreak of “typhomalaria or remitting” fever. Typhoid fever would cause twenty-three NWMP deaths, of the ninety-six that occurred between 1886 and 1900 and many more before 1886. By the late 1890s the cause of the serious fever that plagued the NWMP Forts was known to be typhoid fever. In 1904/5 the first NWT medical laboratory was built in Regina at the insistence of the NWT Medical Executive Council, while Dr. Kennedy was President.

Politically thwarted from being appointed as the senior NWMP surgeon in 1882 at age twenty-three, Dr. Kennedy decided to remain in the Force until 1887. He strove to improve hospital facilities, sanitation, and hygiene in and around the forts. Kennedy carefully recorded his own observations and presented his research on Climate, Health and Medical Disease at the CMA meeting in Banff in 1889. The next day Dr. Kennedy was elected the first President of the newly formed NWT Medical Association (NWTMA).

When the NWT was bisected by the fourth meridian in 1905, into Alberta and Saskatchewan, Dr. Kennedy was one of the medical leaders who helped form the AMA and College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta. In recognition, Kennedy was made the first honorary President of the College in 1906, and was elected the second President of the College in 1907.

Along with Dr. R.G. Brett, Dr. Kennedy sought to resolve the lack of a portable examination and licensing system, that allowed physicians to register and practice in different provinces. They proposed a Western Canadian Medical Federation to resolve the problem. It resurrected the Canada Medical Act discussions which were approved in 1912, creating the Medical Council of Canada. Kennedy died prematurely the next year at age 55.


“The West is young and lusty, and full of life
It has a love of action and a love of newness…
Give the west a little more time and she will yield
a rich harvest of energetic and trained men
who will have in them that invaluable dash of Western originality”

Dr. H.G. Mackid was the fifth physician and surgeon to come to Calgary. He arrived in the fall of 1889. The next year he joined with Dr. J.D. Lafferty to manage the Calgary and Edmonton (CPR) railway medical construction contract. In 1890 the CPR transferred the employee medical contract for the mainline from Calgary to Regina to Dr. Mackid. A prime supporter of the first two public hospitals in Calgary (Calgary Cottage and Holy Cross in 1890/91), Mackid was a leader in communicable disease control, the provision of diagnostic services, and the formation of Calgary’s first group medical practice.

Respected by his peers, he was elected the third President of the NWT Medical Association in 1893, and first President of the CMA from Alberta in 1911/12. As CMA President he presided over the second annual convention held in Alberta, in Edmonton in 1912. His 1912 CMA Presidential address vividly described his expectations of those Alberta physicians who were to follow him.

Dr. Mackid was a Charter Fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1913, and with Dr. Mewburn the first from Calgary. He died prematurely in 1916 at age 58 from diabetes, one year after J.B. Collip arrived at the UofA and six years before Collip isolated therapeutically effective insulin in Toronto, while on an eighteen month sabbatical from the UofA.


“…an excellent practitioner with a bright mind.
He was kind and congenial, very well read,
a good conversationalist and an enjoyable speaker”

Dr. Herbert Charles Wilson was a competent, well spoken, respected practitioner, who answered Frank Oliver’s newspaper advertisement or call “to come to the west” in 1882. Dr. Wilson came as Alberta’s first doctor/druggist and remained in full time medical practice for twenty-seven years until his death at age fifty in 1909. He was a community leader who participated in the building or creating of many athletic, community, and political institutions in Edmonton and the NWT. Respected by his constituents and peers, he was elected to the first NWT Legislative Assembly from 1885-1888, re-elected in 1888-1891, voted the first speaker of the NWT Legislature (1888-1891), and served as Mayor of Edmonton twice in 1895 and 1896.

Medically, Dr. Wilson was elected to the first NWT Medical Council (1889). He was the first AMA President from Edmonton (1907/88) and spoke functional Cree, so he could provide care to the Indian patients. He installed one of Edmonton’s first telephones (1885). Dr. Wilson’s presence still permeates the office he built on Jasper Avenue in 1882, now located in Fort Edmonton in the back of the Daly Drug Store.


NWMP/RNWMP Surgeon 1884-1931
NWT/Alberta Coroner 1896-1948
Edmonton Medical Officer of Health 1892-1907
Alberta Inspector of Hospitals 1920-1938

Dr. Edward Ainslie Braithwaite played an important part in the progress of medicine on the prairies for over sixty years from 1883 to 1947. His contributions were unrivaled in duration, breadth, and medical practice firsts. Braithwaite’s medical career started as an NWMP Hospital Sergeant in 1884. He completed his MD at the Manitoba Medical College in 1890, before leaving the NWMP two years later. His first and only private practice began in Edmonton in 1892. He was appointed Edmonton’s Public Health Officer, the Canadian Northern Railway’s chief doctor, Alberta’s Chief Provincial Coroner, and Hospital Inspector. Braithwaite authored a colorful, anecdotal personal memoir of his reminiscences entitled Early Days of the RNWMP in 1941.


“The bushes rustled,
the trees parted,
and the familiar face
of Alberta’s pioneer amateur naturalist
appeared from the Michener thicket.”

Dr. Henry George was a tall, forthright physician who held strongly to his opinions. Along with Dr. (Sir) John Richardson and Dr. John Rae, he was the only physician to write authoritatively on the flora and fauna of Alberta before the end of the 19th Century.

Henry George’s father (Charles Frederick) and grandfather (Henry Sr.) were both physicians. They practiced in Kirton, England and St. Thomas in London. Henry George followed in their footsteps as the third Dr. George in succession. Mindful of their places in the George and Barnard family constellations, both Henry George and his wife Barbara wrote autobiographies from 1924-1926. In 1932, at the request of Dr. H.C. Jamieson, Dr. George forwarded to him the twenty medical certificates held by the George family.


“He has journeyed widely in search of knowledge
bringing to our specialty (Radiology)
that enviable prestige, in the sunshine of which we bask”

Dr. George Henry Malcolmson was Alberta’s pioneer Radiologist. He brought the first x-ray unit to Alberta and the little town of Frank in 1906. Dr. Malcolmson became Alberta’s first full time radiologist in Edmonton in 1915. In 1919 Drs. Malcolmson and Edgar Allin brought the first radium to Western Canada. In January 1941 Dr. Malcolmson was appointed the first Director of the Alberta Cancer Service. That service provided the first free cancer treatment in Canada.


“It was in 1920 … I was attracted to … [Dr. J.S. McEachern] …
who, in clear, crisp and concise language … pointed … out
the necessity for the CMA to make every effort to resuscitate itself.”

Eighteen years later, in 1938, Dr. A.T. Bazin of Montreal and Dr. W.S. Galbraith of Lethbridge proposed that the F.N.G. Starr Award be given to Dr. J.S. McEachern, “in appreciation of what he has done for organized medicine in Canada”. By accepting, Dr. McEachern became the second recipient of the STARR Award. He followed the first recipients of the “Victoria Cross” of Canadian Medicine, Drs. Banting, Best, and Collip in 1936, and preceded the third and fourth recipients, Drs. Routley (1948) and Bazin (1951).

The Starr Award recognized Dr. McEachern’s contribution to four major CMA events. The first was to pull it back from the brink of bankruptcy in 1920-1921 and initiate the forward movement as it was termed. The second was to help federate the CMA by creating a legally binding agreement between the CMA and the Provincial Medical Associations from 1930-1938, and lead the Alberta Medical Association to become the first Association to agree to federate with the CMA in 1935. His third contribution was to persist, prod and twice personally lead the CMA (1931-1933, 1936-1938), to form and chair (1938-1944) a national medical/lay General Council for the Control of Cancer, known since 1944 as the Canadian Cancer Society. The fourth was to help draft and link the medical and health insurance principles contained in the Alberta Health Insurance (Hoadley Commission) proposal of 1932-34, with the 1932-34 CMA Committee on Economics principles and Plan for Health Insurance in Canada.

The underlying principles, developed by the AMA/CPSA with the Alberta government for a state health insurance plan, guided medical associations in their deliberations with the BC, Federal and other Governments from 1935-1943. In January 1943, the CMA became the first national organization to unanimously support a plan for health insurance in Canada. Two years later in August 1945, the Federal Government tabled the first comprehensive, universally tax-funded health insurance plan for Canada, at the Federal-Provincial Conference on Reconstruction. The service and citizen coverage were the same as the Alberta (Hoadley) health insurance proposals (1932).

The contributions of Dr. McEachern, his colleagues, and contemporaries were such that in 1940 the CMA Executive Council concluded “… that the five year period from 1934-1939 would stand out as one of the most important epochs in the history of the association. The foundations for a truly national medical organization have been well laid”

In his 1948 eulogy Dr. T.C. Routley, the 1923-1954 CMA General Secretary, spoke of his colleague of twenty-seven years in futuristic terms:

“It is too soon to estimate the full value of McEachern’s contributions to Canadian medicine and to Canada, but he is now known and will be known in future days as one of Canada’s outstanding medical statesmen.”

Historical recognition of this forward thinking, quiet, ethical, hard working, yet in some ways shy, humble medical statesman, now buried for over half a century, remains long over due.


“he instilled confidence in us…
convinced us that we could dispatch ourselves
with honor to our King and Country”

Dr. Mason was one physician who heard the call of Dr. R.G. Brett to contribute to his community and the world outside medicine. He did so in the Canadian Army in WWI. Dr. Mason formed and commanded the famous 50th Battalion from Calgary, until November 1916 when he was gassed. He was the only physician to command an active Canadian Battalion, after Dr. John McCrae did in the Boer War. In April 1917 the 50th Battalion captured the two highest points during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Five months after being hospitalized in Britain, Dr. Mason was assigned to the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) Medical Depot at Shorncliffe, England. He became its commanding officer in November 1917, under General (Sir) Sam Steele. Mason received an OBE at the end of the War. In 1919 Dr. Mason returned to Calgary and resumed his practice as an early neuropsychiatrist treating returning soldiers.


“Whispering Willie” marched to his own time.
A ruggedly independent physician and surgeon,
he was the patriarch of (now) four generations
of Western Canadian physicians.

Dr. William Alfred Wilson and his son Dr. Donald Robert Wilson provided over ninety years (1900-1991) of continuous contributions to the march of medicine in Canada – mostly in Alberta (1904-1991). They perpetuated a medical tradition of service, matched only by the seven consecutive generations of Mewburn physicians. Dr. W.A. Wilson’s greatgreat-grandfather was a physician in England circa 1760. Seven of the next eight generations in the Wilson family included at least one physician.

Dr. W.A. Wilson came to Edmonton and practiced from 1904 until 1943 at the Edmonton General, Royal Alexandra and University Hospitals. From 1944 to 1947, he worked for the Workmen’s Compensation Board (WCB). His surgical specialty was the treatment of bone fractures. Dr. Wilson’s retirement from the WCB in 1947, coincided with the return to Edmonton of his eldest son, Dr. D.R. Wilson, who joined the UofA’s Faculty of Medicine that year. Dr. D.R. Wilson continued his father’s tradition of teaching, practicing, researching, and contributing to organized medicine. Dr. W.A. Wilson’s second eldest son Gordon graduated as an orthopedic surgeon and returned to Edmonton to join the UofA Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Wilson’s medical years were highlighted by his early academic contributions to the Faculty of Medicine. They started in 1917 when he was appointed the first clinical instructor at the UofA. By 1922 he was an associate professor. In 1928 he became the President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSA). That year his interests changed. The College faced an Alberta government that was progressively making unilateral decisions affecting the practice of medicine. It culminated with the government initiated 1928 Legislative Inquiry to determine if state medicine was feasible in Alberta.

From 1928 to 1938, Drs. W.A. Wilson and A.E. Archer were elected Presidents of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta four and three times respectively. They organized and presented the Alberta College principle-based health insurance briefs to the Hoadley Commission (1932) and to the Rowell-Sirois Commission (1938). The principles were incorporated into the Hoadley Commission’s progress and final reports (1933, 1934) and the CMA’s Plan for Health Insurance in Canada (1934).

Those principles became the basis for CMA discussions with provincial and federal governments on state health insurance in Canada. In Alberta’s darkest fiscal days (1933) the Hoadley Commission recommended the province contribute two-ninths of the cost of the proposed Plan A (rural) or B (urban) health insurance programs. The offer was enshrined in the Alberta Health Insurance Act of 1935, which was passed but not implemented. The principles which supported a contributory health insurance plan, became the basis for the CMA’s position for the next ten years, and the foundation for the Haegerty (federal) proposal for a national health insurance plan in 1943.


“he has obtained success who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;…
who has always looked for the best in others
and given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction”

At the turn of the century, Southern Alberta was no longer an empty wasteland occupied by lawless whiskey traders. It was basking in the Dr. G.A. Kennedy testament that the climate of the West was favorable toward some diseases, particularly tuberculosis. The lurking typhoid fever problem was controllable by good hygiene. Slowly the disease was becoming controllable by vaccination.

Into that adventurous milieu of 4,400 Calgary souls, came Dr. George Douglas Stanley in 1901, looking to start a practice. He soon realized that a successful rural medical practice, only required the good doctor to be equipped with a reliable set of wire cutters. Ranching and farm immigration guaranteed a growing practice, as the Foothills switched from an open frontier to a gridwork of productive farms.

Referred to High River he stayed until 1918, adding another character to the many already assembled. Fortunately he never forgot the characters he met. As a young talented, observant, and literary medic, Dr. Stanley always kept his humor near at hand, as his most readable autobiography “Fun in the Foothills” attested. Dr. Stanley remained in practice for fiftythree years, irrepressible to the last. In the opinion of Dr. Earle Scarlett he was one of the three most notable pre WWII personalities in Alberta, alongside Bob Edwards and Frank Mewburn.

The UofA Faculty of Medicine 1913 to 1945

(Rankin’s)…”thorough understanding of the
decisions necessary for survival in the
competitive university and political worlds
were repeatedly challenged”

Dr. Allan Coats Rankin was born on February 6, 1877 in Montreal. He graduated in the McGill medical class of 1904. Rankin was preceded by six members of the McGill class of 1902, who came to Calgary and set the pattern. Another McGill graduate H.M. Tory, D.Sc. joined them as the first UofA President, (1908-1928), adding further to McGill’s influence on Alberta. Tory earned his M.A. and D.Sc. from McGill and started the University of Alberta (January 1, 1908), and the Faculty of Medicine (September, 1913). It was the “only medical school between Winnipeg and Peking”.

Dr. Rankin came to Edmonton in 1914, as the second Director of the Provincial Laboratory. He joined the UofA Faculty of Medicine on a part-time basis until WWI broke out. Dr. Rankin immediately enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC). Demobilized, he returned to the UofA in October 1919. In 1920 Dr. Rankin was named the first Dean of Medicine and the third UofA Dean, after Arts and Science and Law. He held that position until his retirement in 1945, except for 1939-1943 when he was the Director of Hygiene in the CAMC.

Rankin played the leading role in the development of a degree-granting UofA medical undergraduate curriculum. He guided the Faculty of Medicine for twenty-five years. Rankin met the conditions required to release the $500,000 Rockefeller grant in 1923 by extending the undergraduate medical program from two to four years. He presided over the granting of the first MDs in 1925, halving the class size in the 1930s, assisted in doubling the number of classes in WWII, and increasing the graduation class to fifty doctors per year after WWII. During his thirty-two year association with the UofA Faculty of Medicine, 582 physicians convocated from the UofA.

But the UofA Faculty of Medicine did not begin with the appointment of the Dean of Medicine in 1920. It began in 1913 with UofA President H.M. Tory as the program coordinator.


“To those of us who knew him we have our own memorials,
to strangers and even to those yet unborn
some tangible mark must be left to note
that a great man has passed this way”

Dr. Albert E. (Bert) Archer was one of Canada’s most distinguished physicians, medical politicians and statesmen, in the first half of the 20th century. He came to Star, NWT (1903) as a Methodist physician to the Ukrainians and moved to nearby Lamont, Alberta (1906) northeast of Edmonton. His contributions, beyond those of a practitioner, began when he joined the Alberta Medical Association (1907), built the Lamont hospital (1912), and helped organize the Hospital Association of Alberta (1919). As his reputation grew other physicians joined him. They formed the Lamont Clinic in 1925. With the support of his colleagues, Dr. Archer focused the rest of his career on his most significant legacy – the implementation of a national health insurance program in Canada.

In February 1932 Alberta’s United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) government appointed the Hoadley Commission to develop a plan to provide “adequate medical and health services for all the people of Alberta”. Drs. A.E. Archer and W.A. Wilson presented the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSA) brief to the Commission in November and December 1932. The Commission accepted the CPSA proposal for a contributory health insurance plan. The government offered to pay two-ninths of the cost of all health services to cover Albertans who could not afford the premiums.

In 1933/34, his Lamont Clinic began the “Di Bozsha” or “May the Lord give you Health” program, as it became known in the nearby Ukrainian community. It was a prepaid medical insurance program based on the 1932 Depression-initiated Cardston Medical Contracts. The overwhelming response to the program taught Dr. Archer the importance of accessible healthcare.

The health insurance principles in the 1932 CPSA brief were presented to the Rowell-Sirois Commission by Drs. Archer and Wilson in 1938. Dr. Archer then took two steps to place the Alberta proposal on the national agenda. He was elected to the CMA executive in 1939, and he ran as a Liberal in the 1940 federal election, albeit unsuccessfully.

In 1941 the CMA appointed Dr. Archer to the influential wartime Committee of Seven to advise the federal government on a national health insurance plan. During his CMA Presidential year (1942/43), Dr. Archer secured delegate approval for a national prepaid health insurance plan at the CMA’s first ever Special Meeting, on January 18-19, 1943.

The CMA forwarded their unanimous support to the Federal government’s Haegerty Advisory Committee. The $250 million plan was presented to the Federal-Provincial Post War Conference on Reconstruction in August 1945, with the recommendation that it be 100% government funded. Dr. Archer resigned as the Chairman of the CMA Executive Committee (1943-1945) and ran as a Liberal for a second time in the June 11, 1945 federal election. Unsuccessful again, the CMA appointed him their Consultant on Economics. Archer crisscrossed the country speaking in favor of the Federal government’s national health plan. As he did so he might well have recalled his words to the Lamont Graduating Nurses in 1926:

“There is something inspiring about all new undertakings.
They are all expressive in some degree, of
the faith and hope, of the high pride and ambition,
of the confidence and courage, and of the industry
and ability, of some individual or group.”

For monetary, jurisdictional, and tax reasons, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec refused to support the proposal in May 1946. Dr. Archer returned to Alberta to begin rebuilding the provincial plan.


“The men and women who molded the medical practice
and founded and developed the organizations
for the prevention of disease and for its treatment
in a new country are worthy of remembrance”

Dr. Heber Carss Jamieson and Calgarians Drs. E.P. Scarlett and G.D. Stanley were a triumvirate of avocational medical historians from the University of Toronto who came to Alberta, and practiced medicine from 1901-1958. Each physician brought with them a unique approach to the documentation of Alberta’s medical history. In so doing, they left three different literary trails that describe the legacies of Alberta’s early medical pioneers. Those early physicians, whose spirit of adventure and love of newness introduced modern medical care to the Northwest Territories and Alberta, amply fulfilled the expectations of 1911/12 CMA President Dr. H.G. Mackid from Calgary.


Alberta had the lowest tuberculosis rate
in Canada in 1946, 17.2 per 100,000.
If aboriginals were included it ranked third.

The first specialized service for the care and treatment of tuberculosis in Alberta was initiated by Dr. Ernest Wills in Calgary from 1904-1908. Dr. Wills died in a bicycle accident. The delivery of TB services in Alberta received little concrete attention for another decade, until tuberculosis care for returning veterans became a crisis during WWI. In 1915 Dr. A.H. Baker, like Dr. G.D. Stanley and Manitoba’s Dr. D.A. Stewart before him, developed tuberculosis. Dr. Baker was thirty-two. Two years later he tried to enlist. Declared not fit for service he was sent to China instead. On his return in 1918, Dr. Baker was assigned to the newly acquired and renovated Frank Sanatorium in southern Alberta. It had been leased to treat the returned veterans who had acquired tuberculosis. Dr. Baker’s assignment became a lifelong one.

By 1919 Dr. Baker was Alberta’s senior TB specialist. He remained the Director of the TB services under Drs. W.C. Laidlaw and M.R. Bow until 1950, when he retired and moved to BC. After he died in 1953, the Central Alberta Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Bowness (near Calgary) was renamed the Baker Sanatorium. It closed for TB patients in 1970 when the last twenty-nine patients were moved to the newer Aberhart Sanatorium in Edmonton.


“We have scarcely more than made
A good beginning in the application
Of the knowledge that we now possess”

The role of Dr. Malcolm Ross Bow in the history of medicine in Saskatchewan and Alberta was a long and illustrious one, lasting forty-years. Ontario born, Malcolm Ross Bow came west for his first summer job in 1907. In 1910 while still a medical student, he was assistant to the Director of the Saskatchewan Provincial Laboratory in Regina. After graduating in Medicine in 1911, Dr. Bow was appointed the interim Director of the Laboratory. In 1912 Dr. Bow accepted one of the first full time MOH positions on the prairies, just in time to manage the medical response to the 1912 Regina cyclone.

Dr. Bow returned to academia after WWI and obtained his DPH in 1919 at UofT. In 1921 he accepted the added responsibility of Medical Superintendent of the Regina General Hospital. In February 1927 he was appointed Alberta’s Chairman of the Provincial Board of Health as well as the Provincial Medical Officer of Health and Deputy Minister of Health. Dr. Bow and Health Minister Hoadley became a powerful public health team.

As soon as Dr. Bow arrived in Alberta he faced a plethora of healthcare challenges. His recommendations and decisions gained the confidence of the government and the respect of the medical profession. As his authority and stature increased, it gave him the opportunity to accelerate the government’s public health agenda and healthcare Acts. (Table 1)

Dr. Bow’s plans for mental health, health units, health insurance, tuberculosis, polio, cancer care, and maternity care, faced detours and delays from the Depression, drought, and government deficits. With strong political support the programs were never derailed. Healthcare remained a government priority through the early 1920s and 1930s.

Dr. Bow remained intimately familiar with the public health scene in other provinces particularly Saskatchewan. The medical profession responded to the UFA government initiatives in the late 1920s by becoming increasingly well organized. Dialogue and good communication between the two became important. Dr. Bow provided that link.

Because the Depression so dramatically limited access to healthcare in Alberta, the UFA government searched for a solution. So did the AMA/CPSA as the amount of free medical care in Alberta doubled after October 1929.

The AMA/CPSA strove to retain the direct physician/patient relationship in a fee for service system. Health Minister Hoadley was a strong supporter and proponent of the Saskatchewan municipal doctor or salaried system, especially in the remote, under-doctored parts of Alberta. Dr. Bow’s motivation remained a public health one. The most effective strategy to prevent disease through the Depression, Bow believed, was to promote and maintain a healthy work force.

Under Dr. Bow, the healthcare debates in Alberta never became adversarial. In time Alberta became recognized as one of the most progressive, forward acting, and healthcare-responsive governments in Canada. That reputation continued throughout Dr. Bow’s term of office. When he retired in 1952, Dr. Bow could be satisfied with his public healthcare accomplishments. He had become one of Canada’s public health leaders.

The Alberta Years: 1915-192

“I experienced then and there,
all alone on the top story of the old Pathology Building
perhaps the greatest thrill,
which has ever been given me to realize”
J.B. Collip, January 16, 1922

Frequently omitted in the recounting of the discovery and isolation of insulin in 1921/22 is the contribution of Professor James Bertram Collip. If Collip had not been in Toronto in December 1921 and provided the knowledge and expertise to concentrate the Banting and Best pancreatic extract, the discovery of insulin may have been delayed, and quite possibly the achievement would have gone to researchers in other countries.

Collip spent his formative years in medical research and teaching at the University of Alberta. During his thirteen years on the UofA Faculty of Medicine (1915-1928), Dr. Collip received his Ph.D. (1916), isolated insulin (1921/22), received a D.Sc. (Alberta, 1924), isolated parathormone (1925), earned an MD (Alberta, 1926), and published seventy-seven papers. The most important decision of his career occurred when UofA President H.M. Tory’s approved his eighteen month around the world sabbatical in 1921/22. His trip was made possible by the 1920 Rockefeller Foundation conditional grant to the UofA’s Faculty of Medicine. The grant required that the UofA create a full four year degree granting medical undergraduate program and upgrade its teaching staff. Professor Collip was the first applicant to be funded.

Professor Collip’s sabbatical began in Professor J.J.R. Macleod’s Laboratory in Toronto in April 1921. Eight months later in December 1921, he was asked by Macleod to join the Banting and Best team to see if he could concentrate their crude, ineffective pancreatic extract. Within two weeks, he had isolated a potent extract. Within a month his compound was powerful enough to convert a diabetic coma into a hypoglycemic state in a laboratory rabbit. The extract which the team named insulin, heralded the discovery of a life saving treatment for diabetics.

After Collip returned to the UofA in 1922, he continued his research on “internal secretions”. It became lifelong. He isolated parathormone in 1925 before leaving to become the head of the Department of Medical Biochemistry at McGill in 1928. Collip’s career, propelled by the 1921 isolation of insulin, became one of the most productive Canadian research careers of all time.


“The ultimate business of our profession is not research into nerve pathways
or devising some new operation, or untangling some abnormal cardiac rhythm
but it is with life and human nature”

Earle Parkhill Scarlett was one of the most important figures in the first century of medicine in Alberta. However, his claim to fame was not as a physician – although he was an respected internist and cardiologist – but rather as a scholarly documenter of its passing parade. Dr. Scarlett’s vocational choice was medicine; his avocational choice was history, whether it was medical or medically related. He was honored to be classed as a medical truant, in the same arena as Shelly, Keats and Conan Doyle.

Dr. Scarlett came to Calgary in 1930, drawn by his roots, philosophy, and identification with Canada’s imperious past. The alternatives he had tested had left a disagreeable taste, but the stimulus of the Calgary Associate Clinic and its zest for continuing medical education, fostered by Dr. D.S. Macnab, attracted him and held him. It was a multifaceted clinic, one that was composed almost entirely of specialists.

For Dr. Scarlett the Associate Clinic not only served as a source of medical referrals, but also provided the reservoir of fertile minds he needed, and the supportive staff he required, to develop a critical mass of historically knowledgeable medical men. Scarlett was particularly attracted to his kindred spirit, Dr. George Douglas Stanley.

In 1932 Dr. Scarlett was successful in adding biweekly “Historical Nights” to the continuing medical education program of the clinic. The next turning point came in 1936, when Dr. D.G. Stanley, then sixty, said he was contemplating a new avocation in his life; the writing of his own medical experiences in High River. With Dr. Stanley’s support the two convinced their historically sensitized colleagues, to support the publication of the Historical Nights of the Calgary Associate Clinic on a regular basis. This arrangement provided the launching pad for the Calgary Associate Clinic Historical Bulletin (CACHB).

Scarlett and Stanley soon imbued their clinic colleagues with a never-before-equaled enthusiasm for medical history. They coupled it with the necessary discipline for deadlines, and in so doing captured the essence of NWT and Alberta medical history, from the time Dr. W.M. MacKay arrived in 1868, through the first half of the 20th century, to 1958. Altruistically they shared their insights and fascinating recollections in the pages of the Historical Bulletin, published by the clinic and issued quarterly for over twenty-two years. Gratuitously the clinic paid for the supporting cast of RN prompters, whip crackers and research librarians, while Scarlett’s “comrades in arms”, as he liked to refer to them, never failed the call.

The focus of the CACHB was on Alberta’s medical history but that was by no means its only feature. As co-editor, Scarlett encouraged the Bulletin to give extensive coverage to other Canadian medical figures and medical schools, and sprinkled the selections with a wide variety of international topics. It only ended when Scarlett paused for a year, before fully retiring from practice in 1959. In retirement Dr. Scarlett accepted a bevy of guest columnist requests that heralded the most prolific five years of his medical writing life. His written bibliography eventually exceeded 450 references, excluding his speeches, three taped interviews, a book containing an anthology of his best writings, an historical journal of over two thousand pages and a biography, a “Study in Scarlett” by Bill Musslewhite in the AMS/Hannah Medical Lives series.

Colleagues and contemporaries recognized Dr. Scarlett’s unique blend of medical and literary competence. They nominated him as the Chancellor of the University of Alberta, and for three honorary doctorates from Toronto (1953), Alberta (1958) and Calgary (1969). But his most lasting doctorate came in 1967, when the Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School in Calgary was named in his honor, for others not yet born to ask the curious question “who was he?”.


“Dr. MacLean was absolutely superb with the patients.
Patients were not to be abused.
(He) discontinued everything except sedative packs…
there was to be no force…
in any way, physically or emotionally”

Dr. Randall Roberts MacLean was the second physician to take post-graduate training in Psychiatry and practice in Alberta. The first was his predecessor, Dr. Charles A. Baragar. After working at the Alberta Hospital Ponoka (AHP or PMH) through the tumultuous years of 1928 and 1929, Dr. MacLean left in 1930 on a leave of absence to study psychiatry in the major centres of Europe. He returned in 1932. When Dr. Baragar died unexpectedly in 1936, Dr. MacLean became the Superintendent of AHP. Twelve years later, he became Alberta’s Director of Mental Health Services, a position he held until his retirement in 1965.

Dr. MacLean’s tenure as the senior psychiatrist and Director of Mental Health Services in Alberta (1936-1965) covered the most fiscally challenged, therapeutically devoid (until 1954) and rapid bed expansion period in Canadian psychiatry.

Dr. MacLean’s steady-at-the-helm leadership has received limited historical attention. There was one Alberta study of mental illness to 1935, one on the UFA government’s health policies from 1921-1935, and one on Dr. MacLean’s leadership at Alberta Hospital Ponoka. A statistical summary of Alberta’s mental health services from 1911-1968 was completed by E.J. Kibblewhite for the Blair Report on mental health in Alberta in 1968.

During his more than thirty years at the helm, Dr. MacLean was called upon to: 1) face the accelerating demand for psychiatric admissions through the 1930s by rapidly expanding the mental hospital bed capacity; 2) maintain basic psychiatric services through the Depression when staffing ratios were reduced from 1 per 5, to 1 per 10 patients; 3) adjust to the shortage of physicians and psychiatrists, caused by the high prairie WWII enlistment rates; 4) teach psychiatry at the UofA until 1946, when the first faculty psychiatrist arrived; 5) manage all of Alberta’s mental health facilities and services, which peaked at 5400 beds in 1966; 6) remain abreast of the few therapeutic regimes that were beneficial until 1953; and 7) oversee the rapid introduction of the first effective antipsychotics, Chlorpromazine, Promazine and Thioridazine after 1953.


“I’ve got the whole valley to myself. There’s not a light to be seen.
There’s something overpowering about the size of Canada”

Dr. Mary Evangeline Percy along with Drs. Helen O’Brien and Elizabeth Rogers came to northern Alberta in 1929, as the first three provincial physicians. They were recruited from the British Isles and were joined by a fourth physician, who came from the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Margaret Strang. A fifth physician, Dr. Margaret Owens, joined them later that year. She stayed for six years before moving to Winnipeg. All five participated in the extention of medical services to the sparsely-populated Peace River and northern Alberta communities that could not afford them.

The program was similar to the Municipal Doctors program in Saskatchewan, with a difference. The doctors were paid by the provincial government not the municipality. The leaders behind the initiative were Health Minister George Hoadley and Deputy Minister Dr. Malcolm Bow. They were endeavouring to extend the 1919 District Nurse and 1924 summertime Traveling Medical Clinic programs to provide services to the aboriginal, metis and sparsely-settled rural regions of Alberta.

The recruitment program was materially assisted by the Fellowship of the Maple Leaf Society (Anglican Church), which paid for the passage of the three British physicians. Drs. Percy (Jackson) and Strang (Savage) later married and remained active practitioners in Northern Alberta for the remainder of their medical careers.

Dr. Percy was assigned to the most northerly district – Notikewan – which was seventy miles north of the town of Peace River. Her closest colleagues were Drs. L.J. O’Brien and Carlisle in Peace River and Dr. H. Hamman in Fort Vermilion. Dr. Percy’s home was fifteen miles west of the Peace River and four miles north of the future town of Manning. Her July 1929 arrival came just four months before the stock market crash in October and the onset of the Great Depression.

When Dr. Percy signed the Alberta contract she had planned to stay only until an obstetrical opportunity came available in Calcutta, India. By the fall of 1929 she had fallen in love with the Peace River country. She was attracted by the adventurousness, spirit, excitement, and novelty of the area. As she later noted, “People here succeed or fail entirely on their own abilities, and though their life is hard, there is something clean and honest about it”. The medical isolation that was part of her choice never crossed her mind.

As Dr. Percy’s attachment to the Peace River country grew, so did the homesteaders’ affection and respect for her. The attachment became permanent, when Frank Jackson a British born widower twelve years her senior, proposed to Dr. Percy in early 1931. He had been in the Peace country since taking up a homestead at Keg River in 1919. The marriage moved Dr. Jackson another eighty miles north to Keg River, an area with few Treaty Indians and fewer settlers. It also deprived her of the 1931 provincial doctor income of $2400 per year plus a drug allowance. A petition for funding from the Keg River community only led to a government gift of one gallon of cough mixture, one gallon of cod liver oil, one gallon of Lysol and one gallon of white liniment.

Dr. Jackson provided medical care to a 1,000 square mile area, by horseback, dogsled and later by car, to the frontier settlers who were determined to survive and succeed. Her reputation spread, as she organized evacuations of acutely ill patients to Edmonton by weather-dependent aircraft. Her judgment gained her the respect of the Keg River community and her medical colleagues six hundred miles to the south in Edmonton. With her husband Frank, the two hardy pioneers became a medical/surgical team on call twenty-four hours a day for decades.

Hon FRCS (England, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ireland)
Hon Membership (South Africa, South West Africa)

“I have gathered a poesy of other men’s flowers,
and nothing but the thread that binds them is my own”

One of the most fortuitous decisions for Albertans, occurred when Dr. Walter Campbell Mackenzie twice chose Edmonton (1938, 1945) to locate his surgical practice. He was following his father’s advice to go west. Dr. Mackenzie was one of the best examples of a physician that came to Alberta and who, as Dr. H.G. Mackid foresaw in 1912 “thinks boldly and acts boldly, by necessity first, then by conviction, and ultimately by habit”.

When Dr. Mackenzie came to Alberta in 1938, he had already earned a Masters degree in Surgery from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It was followed by a Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons. In 1939 he made his next major career decision, to join the Naval Reserve and then the active Navy in 1940. As a Cape Bretoner it was a natural decision. At the end of the war after many Atlantic and Pacific coast postings, Dr. Mackenzie returned to pick up the threads of his Edmonton surgical practice.

With an academic future in mind, Dr. Mackenzie earned his Canadian certification in surgery without examination in 1945. Then he began studying for the difficult Canadian fellowship examination in Surgery. He was successful in 1948. It opened the door for his appointment as the Professor and Head of the Department of Surgery at the UofA and Director of Surgical Services at the UAH, from 1950-1960. With the retirement of the third UofA Dean of Medicine Dr. J.W. Scott in 1959, Dr. Mackenzie was appointed the fourth Dean of Medicine, from 1959-1974.

Dr. Mackenzie was a physician who influenced medicine in and far beyond Edmonton. He accomplished this by accepting additional responsibilities, promoting teamwork, leading a growing and talented faculty, and never remaining content with the status quo. He was by no means alone. Alongside him were exceptional UAH Executive Directors like Drs. Douglas Wallace and Bernard Snell, and behind him was the respected UAH Board and the growing Faculty of Medicine.

If leadership meant taking what one inherits, adding to it the necessary space, people and financial resources, and then building a team to face the task, Dr. Mackenzie had few parallels. He knew the measuring sticks: student pass rates, accreditation approvals, research publications, grants, funding levels, and reputation. He started by gathering around him men of like mind, from the cadre of returning veterans. It was natural for him to set goals for himself and then others, usually one step above what was perceived possible. Then he would help “the team” achieve them and share the recognition that followed. Although he was a tough taskmaster and his deadlines were usually short-roped, at the end of his twenty-five years as Professor and Head of Surgery and Dean, his national reputation was that of “Mr. Academic Surgery” in Canada.

Dr. Mackenzie was fortunate because his time as Dean coincided with the golden age of medicine in Alberta. The first seventeen years were before Medicare. Alberta was under doctored. The province was increasingly willing to support the University and there was a stable government-university-faculty-medical profession relationship. He counted on it and added measurably to it.

Dr. Mackenzie had a spirit of inquiry and used new strategies to reach his objectives. He expanded the medical (basic and clinical) research programs following the establishment of the $1.5 million UAH Special Services and Research Fund in 1955. The fund demonstrated the faculty’s willingness to assemble the means to excel. Good faculty was the foundation his successors needed to develop the third facet of medicine at UofA – medical research. Dr. Mackenzie left behind (1974) a far larger and more capable faculty than he inherited.


… whose foresight, funded the Alberta Medical Foundation

Dr. Margaret MacSteven Hutton led a quiet but fulfilling life as the first woman Obstetrician and Gynecologist in Edmonton.


“I have left with the great satisfaction
of having the good fortune to work
with an active and happy group
not only from within the department, but
among chairmen of the other clinical departments as well”

Dr. D.R. Wilson was the first physician in this series to be born in Alberta. After graduating with his MD from the UofA, he joined the RCAF. Following WWII he completed his postgraduate training in the USA before returning permanently to Edmonton to join the UofA Faculty of Medicine in 1948. One year later Dr. Wilson became the first Markle Scholar at the UofA (1949-1953), the Department of Medicine’s third Professor and Chairman (1954-1969), and the first geographic salaried full-time Professor at the UofA (1954).

During his Headship, Dr. Wilson established four new departments (Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Medicine, Public Health) and fifteen divisions (Endocrinology, Cardiology, Pulmonary Medicine, Dermatology, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Nephrology and Immunology, Gastrointestinal Medicine, Clinical Hematology, Clinical Pharmacology, Infectious Diseases, Medical Oncology, Metabolism, Rheumatic Diseases). By 1969, mergers had reduced the number to nine.

Dr. Wilson recruited all of the new Department and Division Heads. He also increased the number of postgraduate medical residents from six to a peak of over eighty, before consolidation reduced the number in half by the late 1960s. He led the faculty’s research fundraising efforts. The Department of Medicine was successful in increasing its medical research grants from $10,000 (1950) to over $400,000 (1969) and $800,000 (1971).

After retiring as the Professor and Chairman of the Department (1969), Dr. Wilson became the first Director of the R.S. McLaughlin Examination Center (1968-1978). He was a member of Edmonton’s Muttart Foundation Board (1966-1978), and became its Chief Executive Officer (1978-1988). In 1980 he was appointed to the Alberta College’s 75th Anniversary History Committee. It was charged with updating Dr. Heber Jamieson’s 1947 “Medicine in Alberta, the First 75 Years”. Dr. Wilson, together with Dr. W.B. Parsons, wrote or co-wrote twelve and edited the remaining fourteen articles in “Medicine in Alberta: Historical Reflections”. It was published by the Alberta Medical Foundation in 1993.

In 1985 Dr. Wilson petitioned the AMA to incorporate the Alberta Medical Foundation as the successor to the AMA’s Committee on Archives. He was successful and was appointed the founding President in 1987.

Dr. Wilson was a lifelong builder, leader, active participant, and documenter of medicine in Alberta. Together with his physician father Dr. W.A. Wilson, the two made exceptional contributions to medicine totaling one hundred years, ninety of which occurred in Alberta.


“Medical men make more major decisions
daily, than businessmen do in a lifetime.
Business involves dollars.
Medical men are concerned with lives.”

Dr. Charles A. Allard was one of Alberta’s best examples of a physician who was successful inside and outside medicine. He demonstrated how hard work, good judgment, and ability were the core competencies of success. Independent minded, he was a clear thinker who had a remarkable insight into Alberta’s future. His vision of its potential guided him to make exceptionally accurate, farsighted, and well timed business decisions, whether it was to invest, to borrow, or to use a scalpel to cut his losses.

Dr. Allard’s career began as one of the first fellowship-trained surgeons in Canada. After a brief postgraduate stint at the UofT, he transferred to McGill’s new surgical training program in 1944 and graduated with the first class of surgical Fellows. After receiving his FRCSC he returned to Edmonton in 1948 to set up practice at the Edmonton General Hospital (EGH). In 1956, Dr. Allard succeeded Dr. Louis Phillippe Mousseau as the Chief of Surgery. He continued as the Chief until 1968 when he stepped down and took a leave of absence to commit more time to Allarco Developments, which had become a public company.

Dr. Allard’s business life can be divided into two phases. The first was the building of an unusually successful conglomerate, Allarco Developments (1968-1980). After selling his shares in 1980 to Carma Developers Ltd., he privatized his remaining broadcast interests and concentrated on building a multi-faceted Western media TV enterprise, Allarcom Ltd (1974-1991). Dr. Allard merged it with Western International Communications in 1991, which in turn was purchased by Global Telecommunications, now Canada’s Global TV.

Dr. Allard was an exceptional creator and builder of new corporate identities in Western Canada. He built North West Trust starting with a charter, and expanded Seaboard Life Insurance into a national company. He launched CHQT (FM) in 1965 and in 1974 started CITV (known as ITV), Western Canada’s first independent television station. He brought the WHA Edmonton Oilers to Edmonton, in partnership with Zane Feldman and Bill Hunter. With Alberta Gas Trunk Ltd he created Allarco Chemicals Ltd, which built three world-scale methanol refineries in Medicine Hat. When he sold Allarco Developments to Carma Developers in 1980, it included restaurants, apartment buildings, construction companies, shopping centers, and a chartered jet airline company. Adroitly he retained the corporate shell for the future Bank of Alberta. It became the Canadian Western Bank.

With his eye on the future, Dr. Allard created the Allard Foundation in 1978. It has made substantial gifts to health, hospitals, and research programs and projects, including donations to the W.W. Cross Cancer Institute, the UofA Faculty of Medicine, and the Stollery Children’s Center.

Dr. Allard received many awards and acknowledgements, before and after his death. Allard Way, a five block street across from his media production center, was named after him three days before he died. It was a touching recognition for a man whose thirst for knowledge and creation of successful commercial enterprises had few limits and no rivals.


“Look not mournfully at the past –
It comes not back again;
Wisely improve the present – it is thine;
Go forth to meet the shadowy future
Without fear, and with a joyful heart”

The life of Dr. W.A. Cochrane is an exceptional Canadian story. It begins in medicine and evolves through pediatrics, medical research, medical education, biotechnology, into business. Dr. Cochrane was a strong believer in the power of education, instilled in him by his parents who were not so fortunate to receive one. He turned his own career into a lifelong learning experience.

In his youth Cochrane demonstrated competence in both sports and academics. Extra-curricularly he enjoyed maritime pursuits which almost landed him in the Navy in World War II. Spurred by the role model of the family GP, he chose medicine as a career. Dr. Cochrane graduated in 1949. By 1950 he realized his greatest enjoyment came from working with families, who had seriously ill youngsters. Paediatrics was a natural choice, followed by subspecialization in the field of inherited metabolic diseases. He developed the Cochrane test for leucine intolerance, a disease that produced hypoglycemia and convulsions in non-diabetic infants.

Dr. Cochrane’s research and teaching interests merged when he accepted a full-time teaching and research position at the Children’s Hospital and Dalhousie University in Halifax. At Dalhousie (1958-1967) he initiated new pediatric services and clinics, and was involved in the design and building of the Isaac Walton Killam Children’s Hospital. His ability to communicate led to invitations to write chapters in two books: Holt’s Textbook on “Paediatrics” and Shirkey’s “Paediatric Therapy” on hypoglycemia.

While on the curriculum review committee at Dalhousie, Dr. Cochrane became interested in teaching medicine one body system at a time. When an opportunity arose in Calgary to design and build one of the last new medical schools in Canada, Dr. Cochrane applied and was accepted. There would not be another new one for forty years. Dr. Cochrane introduced a new system-based curriculum before the medical undergraduate program began. Fewer than six years later, the first MDs graduated, the same year a new medical school was finished (1973). The faculty focus was on training family physicians.

Dr. Cochrane’s UofC deanship was followed by a brief period (1973-74) as Deputy Minister of Health Services in Alberta and then a four-year tenure (1974-1978) as President of the University of Calgary. When he left the UofC, it had a student enrollment of 11,000, along with 8,000 part-time students.

Dr. Cochrane began his post-medical career as President, CEO and later Chairman of Connaught Laboratories (1978-1989). He guided its transition from a primarily University-based laboratory, into an international biotechnological success story. He retired as the President and Chairman of the Board, when the company was sold in 1989. During his Connaught years, Dr. Cochrane gave numerous presentations on the need for greater investment in biotechnology. His strategy was to link government funding and university-based curiosity-driven research, with projects that had the ability to generate a return on investment in a market-driven economy.

Dr. Cochrane advised the Canadian government on biotechnological advances and transfer technology, and the Alberta government on the establishment of the AHFMR. In retirement he accepted appointments to a wide range of corporate and community boards, and served a term as chairman of the Banff Centre.


“His greatest achievement and source of satisfaction was,
helping young people get started toward a career
in service and in the practice of medicine.
He gave them a role model, encouragement and,
Most importantly, faith in themselves…
Truly a great man with tremendous ability
And energy has walked among us.”

Lionel Everett McLeod was born and raised in Alberta. Except for his years of post-graduate medical studies in Minnesota and McGill, he lived all but his last three years in his home province.

Lionel McLeod graduated from high school during one of the most difficult years to become a physician. The pre-medical class of 1946 had to compete with returning war veterans who had postponed their academic studies.

Earning his M.D. in 1951, Dr. McLeod began his postgraduate medical studies in the field of body metabolism. He came to the attention of Dr. D.R. Wilson, the Professor of Medicine, who convinced Dr. McLeod to return to the UofA and expand the endocrine and metabolism lab. Dr. McLeod’s arrival in 1958 coincided with the first acute dialysis trials at the UofA. Receiving the third consecutive UofA Markle Scholarship, he developed the laboratory to support the first Kiil chronic dialysis trials outside the United States, in 1962.

Dr. McLeod began the chronic dialysis programs in both Edmonton (1962) and Calgary (1970). His steady at the helm approach, did much to help the Calgary program, through a nearly complete turnover of the dialysis and transplant teams (1971). His Department of Medicine was the key department responsible for implementing the second body systems based medical undergraduate curriculum in Canada. The concept, now widely followed, integrated the teaching of basic science and clinical medicine, one body system at a time.

After the first UofC medical undergraduate class graduated in 1973, Dr. Cochrane retired as Dean and Dr. McLeod succeeded him. One of Dean McLeod’s first tasks was to reorganize the post-graduate medical education program to meet Royal College standards. With undergraduate and postgraduate medical education programs in place and departmental subspecialization underway, Dr. McLeod turned his attention to medical research. In 1975 Deans L.E. McLeod (UofC) and D.R. Cameron (UofA) made the first request to Premier Peter Lougheed for provincial funding for medical research in Alberta. Interested, the Alberta government responded with an international search for the best model to use. That led to the formation of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) in 1980, with its unique International Board of Review.

In 1981, Dr. McLeod re-entered the field of medical research as the first President of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR). By the end of the decade Dr. McLeod had overseen AHFMR grant increases from $5 million to $30 million per year. Not ready to retire, Dr. McLeod accepted the Vice-President Medical position of the UBC Health Science Center (HSC) and moved to Vancouver in 1990. One year later he became the President of the HSC, a position he held for his last two years, before he passed away in 1993.


“If life is a set of opportunities
for which decisions need to be made
and goals revised,
then one is to recognize an opportunity
and the next is to pursue it.”

The Tyrrell profile differs from most others because it highlights a life of bench-to-bedside medical research, overlapped by a career in clinical medicine (Infectious Disease), a ten-year medical deanship, and a post-deanship biotechnology career that is still unfolding.

Dr. Tyrrell’s medical career changed dramatically when chance struck his prepared mind. Tyrrell surmised in 1986 that the Pekin Duck carried a humanlike Hepatitis-B virus (HBV) and the duck could be used as a model to test compounds that might have treatment possibilities for humans. The only protection against Hepatitis B prior to 1980 was to prevent of exposure, or after 1980, to vaccinate. There was no treatment for those who could not shed the HBV virus and so carriers remained, who could transmit it to others. Until the early 1980s, the only known animals in which the HBV replicated were expensive models: humans and chimpanzees.

Viral Hepatitis was first described in the 1700s. In 1947 two forms were identified: infectious hepatitis (Hepatitis A) and serum hepatitis (Hepatitis B). The distribution of the virus was worldwide. Hepatitis B was the tenth commonest cause of death in the world (between one and two million per year). Death usually occurred from cirrhosis or cancer of the liver.

In recent years new forms of viral hepatitis have been identified: C, delta, E and G. Currently (2005) there are an estimated 350 million human HBV carriers worldwide including 250,000 Canadians.

With the application of due diligence and hard work, coupled with a measure of good luck, Dr. Tyrrell and his team discovered (1987) a new series of anti-viral compounds (nucleosides) that had great therapeutic potential in the treatment of HBV and related chronic viral infections. One compound (Lamivudine) became the first oral anti-HBV drug for the treatment of HBV carriers. The discovery of Lamivudine was a breakthrough in HBV therapy.

In early drug trials (1989), Lamivudine decreased the viral count in the circulating blood by over 99%. It was licensed as Heptovir in Canada in 1998, twelve years after Dr. Tyrrell discovered its antiviral properties.

It has been shown to forestall HBV’s life-shortening complications, transmission, and reinfection after liver transplantation. For carriers who develop resistance to it, newer second and third generation oral HBV antiviral agents with lower mutation rates have been licensed (2004, 2006).

Overlapping Dr. Tyrrell’s Infectious Disease career was a decade as the UofA Dean of Medicine (1994-2004). No dean, since Dean A.C. Rankin weathered the Depression and World War II contraction and growth cycles a half a century before, has faced similar challenges and rapid changes. The contraction of the Alberta economy (1994-1996), followed by a gradual, then accelerating recovery (1996-2004) required tough decisions to be made, clear goals and objectives set, and opportunities pursued. Leadership required vision, courage, and conviction, to capitalize on the opportunities and foster growth and development before and after the millennium. Dr. Tyrrell provided that leadership, by creating a dynamic faculty with a reputation not only as an exemplary teaching centre, but as an outstanding medical research institution that perpetuated its world-wide reputation.

Dr. Tyrrell’s retirement as Dean in 2004 brought a plethora of requests to join boards and corporate organizations in the biotechnology field. He chose those that had promising clinical potential; or could improve the quality of medical care in Alberta.