A Hall of Fame career
May 9, 2019
This article was first published on the Faculty of Health Sciences Dean’s Blog.
On May 2, I had the thrill of attending the induction ceremony for the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. This is one of my favourite annual events, and this year’s ceremony was especially meaningful because I was able to see a true legend of the Queen’s School of Medicine get inducted: Dr. Jackie Duffin.
From 1988 to 2017, Dr. Duffin was the Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine at Queen’s, and in this role she taught all of our medical students to place our profession in a broader historical context and also to think critically about the ways in which medical knowledge is produced.
A number of the lessons she created for our curriculum became rites of passage for our students. I think almost everyone who studied here while Dr. Duffin taught for us has vivid memories of reading the original Hippocratic Oath with her during orientation and thinking hard about the concepts of “heroes” and “villains” in medical history during their first semester. Many students also traveled around Canada and the United States with her, as she arranged yearly field trips to medical museums in both countries.
Dr. Duffin’s students were so devoted to her that some of them created a conference in her honour the year after she retired. The Jacalyn Duffin Health and Humanities Conference has now run for two years, and it has been an outstanding success both times.
In its citation for Dr. Duffin’s induction, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame says, “A haematologist and historian, her enduring contributions to medical research and education deepen our understanding of how the humanities inform balanced, effective medical training.”
It is so terrific to see Dr. Duffin honoured for the way in which she has so effectively brought the humanities into medical education because, at Queen’s, we’ve been seeing for decades the positive effects that this kind of teaching can have on students.
Because I know how beloved she always was by our students, I reached out to a few to ask for their thoughts on Dr. Duffin and what she has meant to them. Here’s what they had to say.
“Dr. Duffin’s History of Medicine curriculum has provided an essential building block to the medical education of thousands of medical students,” Kate Rath-Wilson says. “She provided us with the critical reasoning tools to be skeptical when necessary and righteous in our advocacy. Learning about the history of our profession, its triumphs and tragedies, through Dr. Duffin’s critical lens was at once humbling and empowering. Her teaching discouraged us from becoming complacent in our responsibilities as health care advocates in our future careers.”
"There are few generalizations that are true in life but I can say without any reservation that Dr. Jacalyn Duffin is loved and cherished by ALL her students,” says Hissan Butt. “That's why Meds 2015 established the Jacalyn Duffin Student Award and students from Meds 2020 and 2021 started an eponymous health humanities conference. It's been an absolute privilege to learn from her and ask important questions about medicine and society."
I’d also like to point out that Hissan was also in Montreal for the induction ceremony, as he was receiving a Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award. These awards recognize terrific work being done by a student at each medical school in Canada, and all of us in the School of Medicine are very proud of Hissan for being this year’s recipient from Queen’s.
“I always cherish moments in the lecture hall with Dr. Duffin,” Yannay Khaikin says. “She teaches with a kind of energy and honesty that reverberates for decades in the minds of medical students, residents, and faculty who have been fortunate to hear her speak. Her commitment to preserving the study of philosophy and history in medicine is relentless, unapologetic, and utterly unique.”
“Dr. Duffin has been the most influential and impactful teacher in both my medical and non-medical education,” Chantal Valiquette says. “She is a resilient, passionate, and brilliant historian/physician who is a constant source of inspiration to her students. Her dedication to her students is unparalleled, and her support for history of medicine has inspired generations of students to realize the impact our history has on our present day understandings of medicine and medical education. There is no one more deserving of an induction to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.”
“Equipped with a colourful scarf, her signature round glasses, a pair of neon sneakers and an exuberance that knows no bounds, Dr. Jackie Duffin is unlike any other professor I have ever had,” Harry Chandrakumaran says. “It is obvious to even the least attentive student that she is unapologetically in love with her job. I cannot imagine a more deserving candidate for induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Many doctors have testified in court. Rarely have they had their testimony result in the canonization of a saint. Even more impressive than meeting the Pope, Dr. Duffin manages to engage a hundred medical students while discussing the intricacies of 16th century anatomical illustrators. Perhaps that is why she is so fondly remembered by a generation of physicians.”
The Hannah Chair is funded by a program that was established by Associated Medical Services (AMS) to promote the history of medicine in curricula at medical schools across Canada. AMS funds eight Hannah Chairs at Canadian universities: six in Ontario, one in Alberta, and one in Quebec.
The Hannah Chair program is a fantastic contribution to Canadian medical education, and, at Queen’s, we have always been proud to host a Chair. While Dr. Duffin no longer teaches our students, they are still learning just as much about the history of medicine through our new Hannah Chair: Dr. Jenna Healey.
As I said, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame induction ceremony is a tremendous event every year. I have fond memories of hosting the event in Kingston in 2014, and this year had the pleasure of sitting with Dr. Duncan Sinclair, a former dean at Queen’s and a 2015 inductee into the Hall of Fame. Thanks to everyone at the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame for hosting a wonderful evening in Montreal and for all of the work you do to recognize medical achievements in Canada.
If you're curious to read Dr. Duffin's thoughts on being inducted, please check out her most recent blog entry.
Dean Reznick thanks Andrew Willson for his assistance in preparing this blog.