U of T Medicine celebrates three inductees to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame
A University of Toronto professor emeritus and two former U of T professors renowned for their extraordinary contributions to health care and research have entered the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.
Department of Medicine Professor Emeritus John Dirks (pictured seated to the right) is renowned for his research on kidney disease and his stewardship of the world-renowned Canada Gairdner International Awards while former professor Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui (pictured seated to the left) is known for his identification of the gene for cystic fribrosis. The late Dr. John Macleod (represented by Dr. Patricia Brubaker, standing second from right) was a leading researcher on carbohydrate metabolism even before his role in directing the experiments that led to the crucial discovery of insulin at U of T.
The Hall of Fame recognized their contributions, and those of four other medical pioneers, at a Toronto ceremony hosted by U of T President David Naylor, the Hall of Fame’s honorary chair.
“We are extremely thrilled and proud that these three giants of Canadian medicine are being celebrated with this prestigious honour,” said Professor Catharine Whiteside, Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions. “As physicians, researchers, academics and ambassadors of science, their inspiring achievements have profoundly changed research and health care in Canada, and saved countless lives around the world.”
The founding chair of the International Society of Nephrology Commission for the Global Advancement of Nephrology, Dirks helped build an outreach program that is active in over 100 countries, providing early detection and treatment to prevent the development of chronic kidney disease. Dirks is also an esteemed researcher in the area of kidney disease and function who has published 158 peer-reviewed research papers. He is perhaps best known for his role as President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation, through which he has raised the international profile of the Canada Gairdner International Awards, now often referred to as “Canada’s Nobel Prizes.”
Dr. Macleod played a crucial role in the discovery of insulin at U of T, one of the most important discoveries in the history of medicine. An internationally respected researcher in carbohydrate metabolism and physiology, Macleod directed the experiments that led to insulin’s discovery and its subsequent application as an effective treatment for diabetes, which at the time was a fatal disease. For his role in the discovery of insulin, the Nobel Committee awarded Macleod and Dr. Frederick Banting the 1923 Nobel Prize for Medicine.
The discovery of the gene that causes cystic fibrosis in 1989 by Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, a researcher at The Hospital for Sick Children who held the H.E. Sellers Chair in Cystic Fibrosis at U of T, dramatically altered the course of cystic fibrosis research and treatment. It allowed researchers to concentrate their efforts on the genetic cause of the disease, and it led to improved care of patients through screening, earlier detection and more effective treatments. The prognosis for patients diagnosed with cystic fibrosis today is much better than it was in 1989, due in large part to Tsui’s breakthrough discovery. Tsui is also credited with advancing the field of genomics and identifying several other genes associated with disease.