Lives of the fellows

James Chilton Haworth

b.29 May 1923 d.16 July 2014
MB BS Birm(1945) MD(1960) MRCP FRCP(1976) FRCPC

James Haworth was head of the department of paediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba, Canada, and the founder of the metabolic programme there. He was born in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of Walter Norman Haworth, then head of the department of chemistry at Armstrong College (Newcastle upon Tyne), University of Durham, and Violet Chilton Haworth née Dobbie, daughter of Sir James Johnston Dobbie, also a renowned chemist. Haworth’s father went on to win a Nobel prize in chemistry in 1937 for his work on vitamin C.

Haworth grew up in Berkswell in the Midlands and was educated at Shrewsbury School. He then studied medicine at the University of Birmingham during the Second World War, graduating in 1945. He held house posts at the General and Children’s hospitals in Birmingham, and carried out his National Service in the Royal Navy from 1947 to 1949. He then trained in paediatrics, at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, as a medical registrar at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool and as a senior registrar at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

In 1957 he moved to Winnipeg, Canada, to begin a paediatric practice at the Winnipeg Clinic. He worked as a general community pediatrician until 1964. Soon after his arrival in Winnipeg, Harry Medovy, then head of the department of paediatrics and physician-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital, recognised his keen interest in research and enormous potential as an academic clinician, and Haworth joined the Children’s Hospital and the University of Manitoba as a full time faculty member in 1965.

His work at the medical college focused on establishing a metabolic and nutrition laboratory and, in parallel, Haworth developed the first clinical service for infants and children with inborn errors of metabolism. For the next three decades Haworth had a remarkable career as a prolific researcher, an academic clinician, a subspecialist and as an administrator. Over his career he made numerous discoveries in the areas of infant nutrition, glucose metabolism and vitamin D, to name a few, which have been translated into lasting contributions that have enormously improved the health of newborns, infants, children and youth, not only in Manitoba, but throughout Canada and internationally.

Haworth was one of five individuals on a national steering committee which spearheaded a federal government-sponsored meeting in Ottawa, leading to the creation in 1982 of a permanent Canadian body for the coordination of the management of inherited metabolic disorders – the Canadian Association of Centres for the Management of Hereditary Metabolic Disorders/Association Canadienne des Centres de Traitement Pour les Maladies Metabolique Hereditaires, unofficially known as the Garrod Association. The founding executive consisted of three individuals, with Haworth as the secretary-treasurer. The Garrod Association is now considered an international leader in its field. Membership is opened to all in Canada and beyond interested and involved with inborn errors of metabolism and scientific meetings are held annually.

Haworth’s skills as a physician were founded on a remarkable clinical acumen, combined with the ability to generate important research questions, synthesise and critically analyse data and make conclusions based on sound evidence, paying meticulous attention to scientific detail (and grammar) and taking every task to its conclusion, invariably on time. In all this he had an inner drive and sense of responsibility, always sharing his knowledge and discoveries with the wider medical and scientific communities – indeed he published more than 110 key scientific papers and 28 book chapters, editorials and review articles.

During his career Haworth established key and lasting relationships with the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba as research director, member of the board of directors and chairman of their medical advisory committee. He chaired the department of paediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba between 1979 and 1985, and throughout his career, including after his official retirement in 1992, he sat on many university committees, including being the chair of the research ethics board of the faculty of medicine, University of Manitoba, as well as a member of the University of Manitoba senate.

He chaired and sat on numerous provincial bodies. He was executive director of the Manitoba Medical Service Foundation between 1995 and 2005, and he was a dominant figure nationally in the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Health and Welfare Canada, and many lay organisations and patient support groups.

During his career he was the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the Teddy award from the Children’s Hospital Foundation in 1985 and an honorary fellowship of the Canadian College of Medical Geneticists in 1993. The Garrod Association made a special tribute to Haworth at its annual meeting in 2012 in Winnipeg, which was attended by over 150 people from Canada, the States and Europe.

Haworth was a man who was enormously respected by everyone. He was viewed as a gentle person with a quiet sense of humour, a patient and a good listener, a superb subspecialist, a great clinician who thoroughly enjoyed his years as a general pediatrician in the community, leading to lifelong relationships with community pediatricians. His students, trainees at all levels and his colleagues all recognised and acknowledged the enormous and lasting impact he had, how inspiring he was and how he helped to shape so many careers. He was truly the elder statesman of inborn errors of metabolism, a true giant in paediatrics in Manitoba and held in the highest regard by all.

In 1951 he married Marian Bowser. They had four children – Elizabeth, Peter, Margaret and Anne – and 14 grandchildren. Through a very generous gift made by Haworth and his wife in 2013, the James Haworth Lectureship and Travel Endowment Fund was established, which will be used to offer a lectureship related to hereditary metabolic and nutritional disorders, and a travel bursary for staff of the faculty of medicine.

Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg

[University of Manitoba Pediatrics Dr James Chilton Haworth: May 29, 1923-July 16, 2014 – accessed 23 February 2014; Garrod News Volume 2 Issue 2 Fall 2014 p.5-6 – accessed 23 February 2014; Winnipeg Free Press 19 July 2014; – accessed 23 February 2014]

(Volume XII, page web)

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