Beloved Professors

Living History
Class of: 

Despite the virtual halt of recruitment of young teaching staff and a minimum of remaining young clinicians – most of whom were training for the battlefields of North Africa, then Sicily, Italy and then the rest of Europe – superlative basic subject teaching was accorded us: JCB Grant, the master teacher and anatomy author kept us on the edge of our seats in the second year. He lit fires to learn in all of us. Post-war, many took postgraduate training in Grant’s department in preparation for a life in surgery and even in general practice. So too in our third and fourth years did the remarkable teacher, pathologist and author William Boyd make learning pathology a great experience. He was not an experimental pathologist. His greatness was in his inspired writings and lectures. He had a marvelous museum depicting disease in all organs of the body. It is difficult to explain why Boyd’s successors dismantled this museum. Professional jealousies can lead to unreasonable and irrational decisions.

In postgraduate training days in both medicine and surgery, many of us were inspired by Drs. Farquharson and Bigelow.  As University of Toronto President David Naylor so aptly put it: “Great teachers taught us to think more closely and creatively.”  Forever members of our class are grateful to both of them as brightly glowing instructors in medical basic sciences, clinical medicine and surgery.

In our undergraduate years, the gruff Duncan Graham, the dry and droll “Dynamite Walter Campbell,” and the unpredictable and quick-tempered Alan Brown taught us well in their eccentric ways. A few colourful surgeons who were too old for military service allowed us to bask in the splendor of their inspiring energized and well-planned lectures. Some of the subspecialties of medicine and surgery were taught by men near retirement or recalled from retirement to come back to lecture or do bedside or outpatient teaching (examples are Fletcher McPhedran, Cooper Cole and Norman Shenstone). From Cooper Cole we learned of the history of medicine from his earliest days, the use of turpentine stupes and the application and indications for leeches. In many ways medicine had not yet gone far ahead of these days by 1939. From Shenstone we learned of his pioneering in thoracic surgery, a special skill that became a great Toronto tradition. Graham denied Banting and Best any role in patient care – diabetes was to be managed by card-carrying internists, Fletcher and Campbell. This was a blunder and the second generation of serious studies of clinical diabetes erupted in Boston instead of Toronto. Fletcher was a skilled rheumatologist, Campbell's heart was in the biochemistry lab and he was not an enthusiastic organizer or teacher of bedside and outpatient medicine.

As with many medical students in the English world, we used Grant’s and Boyd’s textbooks. We used Best and Taylor’s Physiology, but the teaching of Physiology did not sparkle. Mainly, in retrospect, because too large a burden was left to one person, the rest of the staff were absent or doing wartime research.

The paucity of energetic young staff denied us the vibrancy of their bedside teaching but there was an ample supply of public patients on the wards and in the outpatient clinics. At times we were given shortened teaching time, the clinicians who were left were burdened with many demands on their days.



Barnett, Henry, Joan Borland, Jack Laidlaw, Neil Watters and Bruce Wells. The Epic Journey of University of Toronto Medical Class of 1944. Toronto: University of Toronto, Faculty of Medince, 2012. pg. 4.