On May 2nd, 2019 Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, the Immediate-Past (1988-2017) Hannah Chair for the History of Medicine and Healthcare at Queen’s University was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. AMS Healthcare, along with Queen’s University faculty (you can read Dr. Richard Reznick’s blog on the event here) and students were in attendance to celebrate her career and the impact her teachings have had on the lives of countless medical students over the past 30 years. The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame produced this touching video highlighting her achievements.
Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, former president of both the American Association for the History of Medicine and the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine, has made enduring contributions to medical research and education that deepened our historical understanding and caused us to reflect on the origins of present-day health care. A hematologist and historian, Dr. Duffin has assured that thousands of physicians and nurses appreciate the broader cultural and social contexts of their professions. Modern medicine emphasizes mastery of scientific and technical information, but Dr. Duffin argues that the humanities, notably history, form a part of balanced, effective training.
Dr. Duffin’s research has addressed a wide array of topics, sources, places and time periods: diagnostic technology, rural practice, drug development, disease concepts, health policy, and religious healing, including exploration of medical miracles in the Vatican archives. She runs an activist website about the current drug shortage crisis and an online collaboration to translate an important author of seventeenth century Rome. He classic text book, History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction, reprinted five times since its publication in 1999, and now in its second edition (2010), is read by students and law audiences throughout the world. It presents encapsulated histories of medical specialties, featuring the cultural and social factors involved in their development. Concise and accessible, it introduces complex ideas about the social definition of illness and the moral ambiguity of discoveries and treatments. Dr. Duffin has observed that “diseases are ideas” and insight fundamental to all her work.
Over a long and distinguished career, Dr. Duffin has written several books, published numerous articles, delivered many lectures, and received many professional and academic honours. She is a much admired and beloved teacher whose students established both an award for advocacy and a conference fro humanities in her name. Her passionate devotion to historical understanding as an inseparable element of human practice inspires students, educators, and members of the general public alike.