Two McGill luminaries inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame for 2011


Drs. Jonathan C. Meakins and Albert Aguayo are among six laureates this year

One is an unquestioned leader in neural regeneration and an eminent neuroscientist with a contagious passion for discovery. The other was an outstanding teacher, a brilliant investigator and an innovative leader, as well as Dean of the McGill Faculty of Medicine in the early 1940s. Both Drs. Albert J. Aguayo and Jonathan C. Meakins (1882 - 1959) exemplify the highest degree of distinction in terms of their contributions to human health in Canada and, as such, are being inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame for 2011.

“This is extraordinary news and a great honour for the Faculty to have not one, but two of its pioneers inducted this year,” said Richard I. Levin, Vice-Principal of Health Affairs and Dean of Medicine at McGill. “The names Drs. Aguayo and Meakins evoke qualities that are hallmarks of the health sciences at McGill, among them, a burning curiosity, great passion and leadership. This prestigious recognition by the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame is richly deserved.”

Aguayo is a McGill neuroscientist best known for his groundbreaking research into the central nervous system and for challenging the commonly held notion that the central nervous system could not regenerate after illness or trauma. By utilizing some of the most advanced anatomical and physiological techniques then available, his team was the first to show adult mammals' central nervous systems could restore nerve fibres and function. Neural repair today stands in a prominent position due to his exceptional research.

Born in Argentina in 1934, Aguayo joined McGill in 1967 and became a professor in 1977. Appointed director of McGill's Centre for Research in Neuroscience at the Montreal General Hospital in 1980, Aguayo also served as the scientific director for the Neuroscience Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence from 1990 to 2000. He has taught in academic institutions around the world and is the former secretary-general and president of the International Brain Research Organization, a UNESCO affiliate representing more than 50,000 neuroscientists worldwide.

Aguayo has been recognized around the world for his achievements. A Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the U.S. Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, he became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993. His scientific awards include the 1988 Gairdner Foundation International Award and a 1999 Killam Prize for his lifetime contribution to health sciences.

Meakins, a Hamilton, Ont. native, graduated in medicine from McGill in 1904. At the age of 28, following further studies at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, Md., and at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, Meakins returned to McGill and was appointed lecturer in Medicine and Pathology, and in 1912, director of Experimental Medicine. In 1924, he assumed the titles of professor and chair of Medicine, physician-in-chief at Royal Victoria Hospital and, perhaps his greatest legacy, director of the McGill University Clinic. It was at the Clinic that Meakins demonstrated his pioneering spirit by initiating collaborations between basic medical scientists and clinicians. Less than two decades later, he was named Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

As a prolific writer Meakins authored more than 160 scientific publications. He was a founding father and first president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, he presided over numerous other organizations, such as the Canadian Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, and the Canadian Mental Health Association. His dedication to mental health as an acclaimed clinical scientist served as an inspiration to others and subsequently raised its awareness in the medical community.

Awarded the esteemed title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire, he also received two honorary degrees. Named Master by the American College of Physicians, Meakins was a Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Canada, and the Royal Society of Canada (1926). His many contributions to McGill University have been commemorated in The Meakins-Christie Laboratories.

Aguayo and Meakins join the ranks of the 82 Hall of Fame laureates who have gone before them in receiving this prestigious national honour. The four other 2011 inductees are: John Bienenstock, CM; Paul David, CC, GOQ (1919-1999); Allan Ronald, OC;  D. Lorne Tyrrell, OC. The 2011 Induction Ceremony will take place in London, Ont. on April 28.

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Allison Flynn
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