Queen’s emerita professor named to Order of Canada

Dr. Jacalyn Duffin earns honour for her leadership role in the field of medical history

Professor emerita Jacalyn Duffin was recently appointed to the Order of Canada, one of Canada’s highest civilian honours. The announcement was made by Governor General Julie Payette.

A hematologist and historian, Dr. Duffin held the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine in the Faculty of Health Sciences from 1988 to 2017 and was cross-appointed to five academic units at the university (Medicine, Philosophy, History, Nursing, and Education).

She was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada for “her leadership as an academic and mentor in the field of medical history.”

“This news came as a huge and humbling surprise,” Dr. Duffin says. “In these gloomy times, acknowledging the importance of understanding our medical past is especially welcome. People who receive honours have generous friends, who not only see them as worthy, but also work hard to promote the recognition. I have no idea who may have put my name forward, but I am very grateful to have been nominated at all. I also thank Queen’s University for the great privilege of serving during three decades in its AMS-Hannah Chair and for tolerating my endeavours and experiments in research, pedagogy, and clinical medicine. That support meant everything and gave me the security and the strength to dare.”

She has been president of the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine as well as the American Association for the History of Medicine, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2012) and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2013), and she was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2019.

Her research interests include disease concepts, medical technology, medicine and religion, and historical activism with a special ongoing project on the chronic drug shortage problem. Recently she published Stanley’s Dream (McGIll-Queen’s UP 2019) about the Canadian Medical Expedition to Easter Island in 1964-65.  Her popular History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction will appear in its third edition in summer 2021.

She is also known for her hematological review and testimony which led to the canonization of Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, the first Canadian born person to be elevated to sainthood. The review process included a medically inexplicable cure of acute myeloid leukemia after relapse. The long-term survivor has lived more than 40 years since her illness that typically killed people in 18 months. The unusual clinical experience sparked Duffin’s research as a historian into medical miracles in the Vatican archives, a project that resulted in two more books (Medical Miracles Oxford UP 2009 and Medical Saints Oxford UP 2013

The Order of Canada was established in 1967. Queen’s alumnus and Member of Parliament John Matheson (Arts’40, LLD’80) was a driving force in its development. He said the Tricolour Society at Queen’s served as a model for the Order of Canada.