Dr. Barnett's speech at the Dean's Lunch

Living History
Written on: 
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Class of: 

Five years ago several members of our class decided on a unique research project. Our research question was not to be answered by any elaborate protocol. The question was simply to enquire about what careers were pursued by the 123 men and 4 women of the class of 4T4.
From graduation until his untimely death in 1969 classmate Bob Delaney compiled demographic details of all members including pre-medical
school learning backgrounds. Joan Borland was the custodian of these essential facts and added to them when feasible. We are indebted to both of them.

Watters. Laidlaw, Borland, Crawford, Cameron, Wells and I formed the team which put together the career details of all 127 of us pursuing their progress until retirement or death. These data were then tabulated by Watters and the results appear in the document, Professor Shorter read an early draft and recommended strongly that the impact of the avalanche of new knowledge since we graduated (and there has never been another 65 years featuring sucha torrent of change) should be part of this report, telling how it influenced our classmates’ practices and our research and how some of the changes were definitely attributable to classmates.A partial evaluation of the newer knowledge is covered in Chapter 6 and indicates where classmates helped push medical and surgical practice ahead.

In the document you will learn how the war affected all of us. It took more than a year away from our anticipated medical school teaching time. It was with enormous relief and a tinge of disappointment that we learned of the disbanding of our Pacific Division before we had been able to be less passive in our war efforts. The Nagasaki bomb put an end to this notion.. The signing of the “unconditional surrender “ document reached car radios as Toronto was heading to a routine work day in May 1945. I was walking in my lab coat on College Street in
front of the Banting Institute. A car screeched to a halt and parked carelessly and a man in a business suit leaped out. I hurried on and presently he had rushed up behind me, put a cigarette hole in my lab coat as he startled me because this perfect stranger gave me a
great bear hug and as I looked at him probably appearing a bit scared he roared with laughter and fairly shouted: “its all over!” Every horn in
Toronto started to honk.

Most of us spent the next 2 years writing Discharge Papers for the 1 million plus service personnel returning to Civvie Street. As Watters indicates in his tabulations our class was greedy for post-graduate training commonly in the growing subspecialties. 90% of us took
extra training. Only a quarter of us stayed with general practice.

You will read in a separate chapter of Russ St John and his nurse wife Betty who brought up- to- date medical skills to one of the most remote
bays in colonial north-east Newfoundland. They effectively treated a neonate with a club foot with the help of the village blacksmith and set up a premie nursery in their home. We all thought their adjustment to family practice in primitive surroundings merited a separate Chapter(9) and a round of applause today signaling belated recognition and appreciation. They made their class proud. Together they had “the right stuff”. Therapy for no serious medical problem had to be postponed until the snow melted or the ice left the harbor.

Class members in due course filled many emerging medical and surgical specialty positions that were a notable feature of Canadian post-war medicine. Four new Pediatric chairs were occupied by 4T4 graduates. Public Health became more prominent and several leading federal, provincial and municipal positions were headed by classmates. Crawford was a pioneer in Rehabilitation Medicine and eventually advised on setting up departments and hospitals academically devoted to this specialty.

Teachers now departed but in their days proved inspirational to us among others were: Grant, Boyd, Linell, Farquharson, Botterell, McNab,
Dewar and Bigelow.. Still in our midst are dynamic leaders whomwe learned to lean on: Langer, Wilson, Stiller, Wigle, Siminovitch, Sackett, McCulloch and Evans.

Everybody in this room will recognize that our claim to being an exceptional class is based on biased judgment and prejudicial thinking and
they will ask where and what in this research project is our control group? Since this is a unique project and as far as we can ascertain
has not been done before anywhere we have no answer, not even an historical control. The answer must lie in the challenge presented to future medical classes whom we hope will evaluate thecareer commitments and accomplishments of their graduates up to their retirement. Comparisons could readily prove us to be guilty of unwarranted hubris.

Stimulated by Bryan’s dedication to the Nobel Prize–winning organization with most worthy concern for our environment led us to we record
what other classmates had done in this arena. They have been considerable and have been set out in a separate Chapter (11). Some contributed to their local communities,others had a wider impact. Singularly attractive herewas Crawford’s creation and ongoing care for the Collingwood Arboretum, replacing the eyesore of the remnants of a town dump! Foolishly we forgot to include the Barrie School Symphony
Orchestra suggested and promoted by Delaney.

Finally in a summary Chapter (12) we have made bold to offer advice to young and aspiring doctors of personal qualities to be developed
and others to be avoided. To quote Newton, we stood on the shoulders of those who came before in formulating these thoughts.