Lives of the fellows

Douglas George Cameron

b.11 March 1917 d.15 September 1989
OC(1978) MC(1944) BSc Sask(1937) MD CM McGill(1940) BSc Oxon(1948) MRCP(1949) FRCPC(1952) FRCP(1964)

Douglas Cameron, a fourth generation Canadian, was born in Folkestone, England. He was the son of George Lynch Cameron and his wife Rowena, née Shaver, and the dislocation of the Cameron family was the result of the first world war. His father served with the Canadian Forces in France, while his mother worked in England. The family returned to Canada after his father had been wounded, when Doug - as he was always known - was 17 months of age. He was one of four children and spent his early years in and around Swift Current, Saskatchewan, where he became an ardent lover of outdoor life - an enthusiasm which he retained throughout his life. He loved fishing, shooting, tennis and golf. He was educated at the Central High School and Collegiate Institute in Swift Current and subsequently went on to the University of Saskatchewan, where he obtained a BSc degree with ‘great distinction’. By that time he had become intrigued by the challenge of medicine and, following family tradition, entered the medical school of McGill University. He excelled in his studies and on graduation won the Wood gold medal and the Francis Stewart memorial prize. He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship in 1940, when yet another war intervened.

In 1941 he joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps, with the rank of captain, and served in the UK, Africa, Italy and Northwest Europe. He was demoblized with the rank of lieutenant colonel and awarded the Military Cross for distinguished service in the Italian campaign.

After the war he was able to take up the deferred Rhodes scholarship and joined the Nuffield department of clinical medicine at Oxford University where, working with G M Watson and L J Witts [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.618], he made his classical observations in the field of macrocytic anaemia; studies he would extend at McGill. He left Oxford for Montreal in 1949 having acquired a BSc in medical sciences and membership of the Royal College of Physicians, London.

Back at McGill and junior assistant physician at the Montreal General Hospital, Doug Cameron was one of the few well trained and brilliant young investigators scattered across Canada who were destined to have a remarkable influence on the development of medical science in that country. His own work gained international recognition and he was instrumental in the organization of the Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation, now the focal organization for Canadian biomedical research.

Three institutions were intertwined in Doug Cameron’s professional life: Montreal General Hospital, McGill University and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In the first he began as assistant physician and barely eight years later he was appointed physician in chief. At McGill he moved from assistant professor of medicine to the rank of full professor in the same interval and his association with the Royal College reached its apex when he served as president from 1978-80. During his 23 year tenure as physician in chief at the Montreal General, Doug Cameron continued and extended its longstanding tradition of patient care and the teaching of medicine.

In addition, he made the hospital a thriving centre for biomedical research. His vision led to a rapid expansion of research facilities and the nurturing and development of bright young physicians with an academic bent. It has been said that in politics the difference between a politician and a statesman is that the former is concerned with the next election and the latter with the next generation. Applied to medicine, Doug Cameron was surely one of the great Canadian statesmen of our era. His activities in the McGill-Montreal General Hospital axis produced a generation of physician-scientists who became leaders of the Canadian medical community.

He led the Baffin Zone Project to bring modern medicine to the Canadian North and simultaneously supervised the development of one of Africa’s finest medical schools in Nairobi, Kenya. His efforts were recognized when he was invested an officer of the Order of Canada. Doug Cameron served his colleagues and students well as a role model of the exemplary physician. Virtually all his students have attempted to emulate, at least in part, his integrity and insight, and his concern for the patient’s dignity as well as the disease.

As a teacher of medicine he never gave less than his best and he insisted on the same standard from those who had the privilege of training with him. There are few senior members of the Canadian medical community who have not been influenced by Doug Cameron - the man and the legend.

In 1946 he married Jeanne née Thompson. They had two sons, George and Bruce, and four daughters - Jane, Heather, Nancy and Marian. Doug was a loving, caring and committed husband and father. He was, in turn, respected and adored by them all.

P Gold

[Montreal Star, 7 May 1964]

(Volume IX, page 72)

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