Queen's University Queen's University

Jacalyn Duffin

The RSC is the senior national body of distinguished Canadian scholars, artists, and scientists. It exists to promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment, and to advise governments, non-governmental organizations and Canadians on matters of public interest. Fellows are selected by their peers for outstanding contributions to the natural and social sciences, in the arts and in the humanities.

[Jacalyn Duffin holds a fluoroscope at the Museum of Health Care at Kingston]

Jacalyn Duffin holds a fluoroscope (used to create
X-rays) at the Museum of Health Care at Kingston.
Credit: Bernard Clark

A practicing physician, hematologist, and historian, Dr. Jackie Duffin has combined her training and experience as a medical professional into ground-breaking and infectious historical research. Duffin, an advocate of history as part of medical education has effectively bridged the gap between medicine and the humanities. She is the author of over 50 peer-reviewed articles, two edited anthologies and six monographs, including, History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction, which is widely-read in medical schools and history departments across Canada and around the globe.

Duffin has always made use of unique source material (e.g. laboratory notebooks, income tax records, works of fiction), but a major shift in her research focus occurred when she, as a hematology expert, was called upon in the cause of Marie- Marguerite d’Youville. In 1987, Duffin was asked to do a blind reading of microscope slides that came from the blood and bone marrow of a young woman suffering from a severe form of leukemia who, she later learned, claimed to have been cured by prayers to d’Youville. Duffin’s expert medical testimony was used by the Vatican in its decision to canonize d’Youville as the first Canadian-born saint. This work sparked her curiosity about the potential use of the Vatican Secret Archives for medical history and her interest in exploring the nature of other healing-related miracles. In 2009, she published the award-winning, Medical Miracles; Doctors, Saints, and Healing, 1588-1999 (Oxford). Her second book on medico-religious history, Medical Saints: Cosmas and Damian in a Postmodern World (Oxford), is forthcoming.

“This recognition of my work is humbling and I am ever so grateful for the support of colleagues who believe in the value of humanities research in medical education and practice.”

Duffin’s work links disciplines and communities. She lectures to a wide variety of academic, clinical, and public audiences, where her presentations are always remembered. In part, this is because of her talent for presenting complex interdisciplinary issues in a broadly-accessible fashion. Her reputation as an engaging and informative storyteller has made her a highly-sought teacher and lecturer – four W.F. Connell Awards for teaching excellence attest to this.

(e)Affect Issue 2, Fall 2012