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One of Manitoba’s most revolutionary medical professionals is being memorialized by Canada Post.
A set of five commemorative stamps announced this week honour six Canadian physicians and researchers, among them Winnipeg-born Dr. Bruce Chown.
Chown is best known for his work in producing a treatment for the once-widespread and deadly Rh disease, which occurs when the Rh blood types of a mother and child are not compatible. The treatment was administered to mothers during pregnancy and after delivery of the baby.
Chown was born in Winnipeg in 1893. He attended the University of Manitoba, graduated from medical school in 1922, and later returned to be a professor and head of the department of pediatrics. A bust of his likeness sits at the Innovation Plaza on the U of M campus.
"The fact that he is clustered with folks who’ve made huge contributions to HIV and cancer care, the discovery of stem cells, tells you what a giant of a presence he had in the Canadian medical community," U of M Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and Max Rady College of Medicine dean Dr. Brian Postl said.
In 1967, Chown was made an officer of the Order of Canada and was inducted posthumously into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1995. He died in Victoria in 1986.
Hematologist and researcher at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Dr. Jean Wang, who also sits on Canada Post’s stamp advisory committee, first brought up the possibility of the collection in spring 2018, with the intention of recognizing influential Canadian medical professionals who may not be instantly recognizable to the general public.
"I thought it would be cool to have something to mark some of the really amazing achievements that Canadian researchers and physicians have made where their stories are not really well known," she said.
Wang’s decision to suggest including Chown in the collection came from his key role in understanding Rh disease, his work in producing the treatment, and his devotion to personal care when working with patients. Wang recalled a story she had learned during her research where, after introducing a method of providing blood transfusions to newborns with Rh disease to Winnipeg, Chown would respond to calls in the middle of the night from hospitals and perform the transfusions himself.
"He really made an impact on a lot of families, just through his direct care, but then ultimately a huge, huge impact through his research and the clinical trials," she said. "It’s a really amazing story."
Also honoured in the stamp series are: Dr. Julio Montaner (HIV/AIDS research); Dr. Balfour Mount (palliative care); Dr. M. Vera Peters (Hodgkin lymphoma, breast cancer); Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch (stem cell science).
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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