Lives of the fellows

John Arthur Hildes

b.22 January 1918 d.29 November 1984
OC MD Toronto(1940) FRCPC(1949) FRCP(1971)

Jack Hildes was born in Toronto, Canada, and received his early education in Espanola, Ontario. He then studied medicine at the University of Toronto. After graduation he served in the Medical Corps of the Royal Canadian Army from 1941-45, in the United Kingdom and South East Asia, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Once the war was over he did postgraduate work at the Royal Free Hospital, London, England. He then returned to Canada and moved to Winnipeg, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

From 1949-51 he was assistant professor in the department of physiology at the University of Manitoba and then took up a post as medical director of the Winnipeg Municipal Hospitals, 1951-54. In the early 1950s Manitoba was hit by one of the worst epidemics of poliomyelitis and with characteristic compassion, Jack fought a valiant battle against great odds. His efforts did not go unnoticed and in 1953 he was the recipient of the first ‘Man of the Year’ award established by the Winnipeg Tribune.

Jack’s involvement with Canada’s north dates back to the late 1950s and was firmly rooted in his concern with the social development and improvement of standards of health care in northern Indian and Inuit communities. From 1955-63 he acted as director of the Defence Research Board’s Arctic medical research unit, connected to the department of physiology, University of Manitoba. In 1966 he was appointed professor of the department of medicine at the University and, in 1970, he established single handedly the northern medical unit at his university and also became medical adviser to the Churchill Health Centre.

Jack Hildes’ scientific and clinical work was in the areas of gastrointestinal and hepatic physiological studies, bulbar and respiratory poliomyelitis, human tolerance and adaption to cold, and epidemiological circum-polar diseases. This work alone more than earned Jack the Order of Canada. The improvement of health care delivery to native people in the remote northern communities became a passion for which Jack Hildes was duly recognized when he was presented with the NWT Commissioner’s Award.

He married Marianne, daughter of Marcus Johannes de Gast, a Dutch jurist, in 1960 and they had three children - a daughter and two sons.

It did not take long to be at ease with Jack who always found some connexions with anyone he met, whether fellow doctors, other scientists or Canada’s indigenous peoples. As Michael Kusugak - who, with others, shared Jack’s travels in the Arctic - said at his Memorial Service in Winnipeg: ‘I don’t remember ever being any place where Jack didn’t know anybody or where people didn’t know Jack - he was lovingly known as ‘Dr Jack’ in all the places we went to.’

W O Kubsch


(Volume IX, page 233)

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