Dr. Laidlaw's speech, Dean's Lunch

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

Barney, Neil and I wish to pay special tribute to several memorable classmates. We begin with Harry Bain. For 10 years Chair of the Department of Paediatrics, University of Toronto; Order of Canada; LLD Toronto; confidante to countless children and their parents; father of the resident program at the First Nations Hospital at Sioux Lookout; and not least of all, an intrepid fisherman.

Next, Alex Bryans, Professor of Pediatrics, Associate Dean Continuing Education and Honorary Doctor of Divinity, Queens University; medical officer and paratrooper in the Pacific Division World War II; a skilled watercolourist; and President of the Canadian Physicians for Global Survival which were associated with the US organization which won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Next, Hugh MacMillan. Top student and sterling athlete in football and hockey who became almost completely paralyzed due to polio at age 30. Despite being confined to a respirator, and later a rocking chair and bed, he continued to work as Assistant Medical Director of the Crippled Children’s Centre (later the Hugh MacMillan Centre). He was a remarkable inspiration to countless children. He died in harness at age 44.

Next, Joan Borland. One of 4 women in the medical class of 4T4. She pioneered a practice solely for women and taught public health as an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. She was largely responsible for keeping our project alive over many decades.

Next, Alf Sherman. Canada refused him first-class postgraduate training and he spent his entire career in the US. There he became recognized as one of the most honoured and productive of our classmates. He concentrated on Gynecologic cancer and was a world-recognized figure in this field. He was a full Professor at Washington State and Wayne State Medical Schools. He obtained his PhD in reproductive physiology at the tender age of 54. He retired as Professor Emeritus at age 84.

Next, Barney Berris. Despite his high standing in our class, the Jewish quota denied him an internship at the Toronto General Hospital. Following an internship elsewhere and 4 stellar years with the great Cecil Watson at the University of Minnesota he returned to Toronto where Ray Farquharson appointed him the first Jewish physician in the Department of Medicine of the Toronto General hospital. Later he became a full Professor and Head of the Department of Medicine of the Mount Sinai Hospital. He transformed the latter into a first class academic department. The honor which meant most to him came in 1998 when the Wightman Academy of the U of T Faculty of Medicine was renamed the Wightman-Berris Academy. Barney was soft-spoken and outwardly calm, but rock-solid in his ideals and convictions, an incomparable teacher and physician.

Finally, Gordon Snider. He is intellectually spirited and living in Connecticut. He was the class gold medalist and one of only two Jewish members to gain an interneship at the Toronto General Hospital. The anti-semitism of that era led him to do his postgraduate training in Chicago and Boston. He became Professor of Medicine at Boston University and founded its Pulmonary Division. He was President of the American Thoracic Society. In the judgment of his peers he became the world’s expert on emphysema. It was he and his colleagues who showed that compounds called elastases produced by the blood neutrophils in response to infection could attack lung tissue and produce emphysema especially in those patients who lacked a normal protective protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin. There is an Alpha-1 Foundation and it has a Board which Gordon joined. This what he said about that experience. “I had to learn to work on a board where most of the members were patients. They didn’t hesitate to challenge me. But doctors don’t like being challenged. As I worked with the board, however, I realized that their questions and the search for a cure were inevitable. They had the disease and they were surrounded by friends and family members who might someday develop it and even die from it. They were perfectly right to challenge me. This experience changed me considerably.” There you have Gordon.

Barney, Neil and I salute Gordon and all our comrades and their companions in the class of 4T4.