Alexander McKelvey Bryans

Class of: 
Field of Study: 

Alex was a cheerful idealist and a superb teacher.  His father was a physician in Toronto.  His brother became the head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of British Columbia, while Alex became Professor Head of Pediatrics at Queens University.

After UTS, his career in our class included the Meds football team, basketball, and our less-successful baseball team. Before summer breaks were cancelled, he was a counsellor to a pack of twelve year olds at the canoe-tripping Camp Temagami.

During internship at Toronto General, Alex felt that the best road to excitement and risk as a medical officer would be in the paratroops. With the help of a teacher, Col. R.I. Harris, he was posted to the paratroop training base at Camp Shilo where he earned his jumping badge. His army career included a trip through the Canadian Arctic with Operation Muskox.

His postwar training began with a year of anatomy with J.C.B. Grant, then two years at Sick Kids and a year of pediatric pathology in Michigan.

From his position on the staff at the Hospital for Sick Children, he was recruited to Queen’s as the first full-time pediatrician at Kingston General. He enjoyed teaching, and it is clear from their comments that the students revered him and felt that he had marked their lives. He took a sabbatical to get an M.A. in Education.  He taught the course in medical ethics, and in his later years was Associate Dean in charge of Continuing Education.  At one time Alex sat with three other classmates, (Sinclair, Spaulding and Bain) on the Ontario Medical Association’s Education Committee.

He had numerous publications on pediatrics including a prescient paper on childhood obesity in 1967. He was president of the Eastern Ontario Pediatric Association, and served on the Senate of Queen’s University.

At the same time that his pediatric classmate Harry Bain was establishing the Sioux Lookout project, Alex saw similar needs for the aboriginals a round James Bay, and founded the Moose Factory connection with the Queen’s medical faculty.

While this entire outstanding professional career was unfolding, Alex was making what he might regard as his greatest contribution by helping to found and becoming national president of what is now Canadian Physicians for Global Survival, working to get rid of all nuclear weapons.  For years he travelled widely to Russia, Africa and across Canada, writing, speaking and testifying in Parliament to advocate their abolition. He forged a close link with the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The Nobel Committee recognized this activity with a Nobel Prize to their team!  Even as a skilled watercolourist, his paintings often reflected his belief in peaceful resolution of conflict.

Queen’s University recognized the greatness of this teacher by making him the only member of our class who was an Honourary Doctor of Divinity.


Career Achievements

Founder, Queen's University program at Moosonee for Health Canada for First Nations

President, Canadian Physicians for Global Survival


Excerpt written by: Dr. Neil Watters


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. 24.

Related Items