The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame is an institution located in London, Ontario that seeks to honour the medical heroes of Canada, from the early beginnings to the modern day. Their specific mission is to recognize and celebrate medical scientists who have advanced the state and the science of health in Canada, and who have inspired others to take up a career serving society as a medical practitioner. Through an annual induction ceremony, educational grants and opportunities, and a physical exhibit hall, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame exists to serve as the national memory for our greatest achievements in the advancement of medicine.
The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame is a partnership among a number of organizations with a keen interest in the subject. The first of these is the Canadian Medical Association, the interest group that advocates for and advances the position of medical professionals in Canada. The CMA exists to push for meaningful change in the medical profession, to advance the safety and welfare of both patients and doctors within Canada’s medical system. They do this by framing conversations and advancing debate on contemporary issues in the field of medicine. The second organization, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, exists for a fairly similar purpose. While the Canadian Medical Association exists to advocate for doctors, the Royal College exists to educate, license, and regulate the medical profession within Canada. University medical programs receive their accreditation through the Royal College, and the standardized examinations that doctors must take in order to receive their specialist certifications are written and administered by the Royal College. They also promote lifelong learning among medical professionals and underwrite some of the medical and medical science research that takes place in Canada.
The third organization is the College of Family Physicians of Canada, which exists along a similar line to the Canadian Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The College of Family Physicians of Canada exists to establish training standards, certify, and promote the lifelong education of family physicians. They also exist to promote the profession of family medicine and to advocate for family physicians and their patients. The fourth organization, finally, is the City of London, which provides the local partnership for the national organization.
The Exhibit Hall
The physical location of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, known as the Exhibit Hall, is located at 267 Dundas Street, in downtown London, Ontario, at the southwest corner of Wellington and Dundas Streets. The building was first built in 1928 as the regional headquarters of the Bank of Toronto; over the years, it also housed professionals practicing real estate, insurance, investments, and the law. The mergers of the late 20thand early 21stCenturies eventually saw the successor corporation of the Bank of Toronto, TD Bank, merge with Canada Trust. In that merger, the London headquarters was deemed a surplus property and was sold to the City of London for a dollar in 2001. The city named it after former Canada Trust president J. Allyn Taylor, a noted philanthropist and tireless advocate for the city of London. Among his business ventures, he served as the Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario as well as on the boards of University Hospital, the local YM-YWCA, the London Community Foundation, and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Inspiration for the J. Allyn Taylor Building is clearly Renaissance architecture, with its symmetrical design, the parapets on the façade above the ground floor, and the medallions along the top storey of the building. It lends a gravitas to the sober proceedings within the building itself.
The interior is divided into several different areas. The Laureate Portrait Gallery displays the members of the Hall of Fame themselves, each one designed by Irma Coucill, a London native who now lives in Toronto and brings each member to life in a strong, passionate way; her work has also appeared in the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Canadian Business Hall of Fame, and private corporate ownership. This collection also includes a bust of Dr. Calvin Stiller, the founder of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and himself an inductee in 2010. Dr. Stiller was behind the successful organ transplant program at University Hospital and was a pioneer of transplant research across the country. In addition to the Medical Hall of Fame, he was a founding partner of the Robarts Research Institute, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and the Stiller Centre. The bust itself was sculpted by local London artist George Shadford.
Beyond the portrait gallery, there is are further elements to the Exhibit Hall. The Wall of Wisdom shares inspirational quotes by members of the hall of fame, presented in both English and French. In addition, there are three feature exhibits that showcase advancements in Canadian medical science.
The first feature exhibit is titled Mother and Child and focuses on health and safety in pregnancy and children. The exhibit shows some of the more interesting and recent breakthroughs in pediatric surgery, including a number of medical firsts that were accomplished by doctors right in London. It also showcases the work of the inventor of the “childproof” medicine bottle (where you have to press down and turn) as well as the “Barr Body”, the condensed, inactive X chromosome that is found in the nuclei of the somatic cells of female mammals.
The second exhibit is titled Vital Flow and the displays showcase the systems of the body. In particular, it displays important recent discoveries in the cardiovascular system. This includes both examinations of the invention and progress of the pacemaker and the heart monitor. It also shows some of the history and recent advancement of heart surgery, as well as the early detection and treatment of heart defects.
The third exhibit is titled Brain and Mind and showcases the recent work on neuropsychology. This includes a number of advancements in neurological sciences that were made right in London at the University of Western Ontario, as well as advancements made at McGill University in Montreal. These are discussed, and their impact on global neurological research is also examined. One of the more interesting parts is the story of how Dr. Wilder Penfield mapped the brain. The “Montreal Procedure”, which he pioneered with Herbert Jasper, treated patients with severe epilepsy by targeting the nerve cells in the brain where seizures originated and destroying them. Before going through with the procedure, Dr. Penfield would stimulate the brain with light electric probes while the patient was still conscious; in this way, he could target the effected areas of the brain with a high degree of precision, allowing him to keep unexpected side-effects to a minimum. An outcome of this was that he was able to record these individual pre-surgical probes to create a map of the brain and how each part connected to various parts of the body. These maps, partially reproduced in the Brain and Mind exhibit, are still used today with very little change from when they were compiled.
Two other pieces of art round out the collection in this section. The first is a bust of Sir Frederick Banting, cast by Francis Loring in 1932 and donated to the Exhibit Hall by William Banting. Banting, of course, was the former medical instructor at the University of Western Ontario who won the Nobel Prize in 1923 for helping, along with Dr. Charles Best, to discover insulin as a regulatory product of the pancreas, as well as discovering it’s therapeutic use in treating diabetes. Banting is perhaps THE Canadian medical legend, and his reputation as something of a Renaissance Man (he was an accomplished painter as well) has led to him rating his own museum, the Banting House National Historic Site located at 442 Adelaide Street North in London.
The other piece is the last available print of the famous painting Marathon Of Hope, Terry Fox 1958-1981 which was originally done by Cliff Kearns in 1980. It was donated to the collection of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in April of 2012 by the Calhoun and Kearns families. Terry Fox famously ran across part of Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research. The Marathon of Hope, as it came to be known, has been repeated yearly by schools and charitable organizations in a quest to keep the hope of a cancer-free world alive. Marathon Of Hopehangs in the Exhibit Hall in the hopes of inspiring visitors – especially future medical scientists and doctors – to seek a world where cancer is treatable, liveable, and survivable.
In addition to the art, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame also keeps exhibits of artifacts – medical items and memorabilia from medical researchers and doctors that have been at the forefront of progress in Canadian medical science. The artifact exhibit also features a number of pieces of literature and books written by the inducted members of the Hall of Fame, a medallion of Saint Marguerite d’Youville, and news articles and photographs dating back to the early 1920s. The exhibit here is largely comprised of donations from the Kerhoulas Family of London. Alongside this there is a collection of stamps, donated by Canada Post in 1999, that honour various Canadian medical pioneers.
Finally, near the back of the Exhibit Hall, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame keeps their Media Centre. The Media Centre is built into what was, in the beginning of the J. Allyn Taylor Building, the bank vault for the Bank of Toronto. Inside the Media Centre, visitors can view videos that outline the experience and the passion that each of the inducted members have brought to the medical profession and to the advancement of medical science in Canada.
In addition to providing a place to celebrate and memorialize the leading lights of medical science in Canada, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame also provides educational programs to help smooth the path for students who are looking to pursue a career in professional medicine or medical science. For medical students, this takes the form of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award for Medical Students. This award, sponsored in part by MD Financial Management, recognizes medical students who display the qualities of perseverance, collaboration, and the entrepreneurial spirit – qualities that Hall of Fame inductees have pinpointed as the key factors in their success. Each Canadian medical school puts forward one nominee per year; applicants must be medical students in good standing, ready to complete their second year of study, and must have demonstrated leadership through school and community involvement, superior interpersonal or communication skills, and academic excellence. The award is worth $5,000 and includes a ticket to the yearly Canadian Medical Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
For high school students, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame provides both educational programs and scholarships for high-performing students looking to pursue an academic degree in medicine. The Discovery Days in Health Sciences program is the educational arm of the Hall of Fame, providing one-day events for Grade 11 students who wish to explore all of the career options available to them in medicine and health sciences. These Discovery Days include a keynote lecture, panel discussions on various careers by experts and professionals, and interactive workshops that help to develop skills and showcase the necessary daily functions of a practitioner of professional medicine. In addition to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, the Discovery Days program is also sponsored by a number of universities and health sciences organizations, which allows a local spin to be put on each of the Discovery Days put on across Canada.
The scholarships available through the Hall of Fame are in the process of being retooled. In the past, the offered high school graduate scholarship was a partnership between the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and Great-West Life,London Life, and Canada Life. Each recipient of the scholarship received $4,000 toward a four-year undergraduate degree in a field related to the health sciences. The criteria for the award required students to have stellar academic records and a passion for helping others and improving lives.
In addition to these, the Hall of Fame also runs a “Museum School” program where senior elementary school classes take up school day residence in the Hall of Fame for a full week. During this time, students learn about past and present Canadian medical marvels and heroes, as well as meeting locally-based London health scientists who work with the latest and greatest technology in the field of medical innovation. The Museum School for elementary students is available through a partnership with Museum School London, a multi-organization partnership that offers similar programs across ten local museums or heritage sites.