Canadian medical discoveries have improved and saved lives of Canadians and people all over the world. Here are 10 examples of incredible Canadian medical discoveries.
Canadians have made the world better and healthier in many ways. There are literally hundreds of stories of Canadian medical discoveries that improved people’s health and lives. For this blog post, we will look at a mere 10 examples of incredible Canadian medical discoveries that have benefited and continue to benefit Canadians and people all over the world. They are written in chronological order.
Canadian Medical Discoveries
- The Canadian discovery of insulin is probably one of the best know Canadian medical discoveries. This didn’t come easy though. After many trials and errors, insulin was discovered by Dr. Frederick Banting in July 1921. This breakthrough has improved and saved the lives of many diabetics around the world over the past century and is still a principal method of treatment for people with diabetes. 1 A recent study suggests that the number of people with type 2 diabetes will grow from 405 million in 2018 to 516 million in 2030. The need for an adequate inventory of insulin will grow accordingly and this could become a real challenge. 2
2. Dr. Norman Bethune was a true inventor at heart. He invented several surgical tools including the Bethune Rib Shears. But before this, he made a name for himself by pioneering the mobile blood transfusion while he served in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Civilians would donate blood to be used by soldiers in need. In 1936, Dr. Bethune proposed a universal healthcare system for Canada. Although it was not accepted at the time, he planted the seed of a benefit that we, as Canadians, enjoy to this day. 3
3. In the 1950s, Dr. Wider Penfield made a groundbreaking discovery when he realized that he could locate the exact location within the brain that was responsible for certain epileptic seizures. He achieved this by stimulating various parts of the brain while the patient was conscious but locally anesthetized. By being able to identify and then remove the affected brain tissue that caused the aura prior to the seizure, Dr. Penfield discovered that he could reduce or treat the seizures. 4 Not only that, but he was also able to identify the various parts of the brain that elicited memories and motor functions. He published these brain findings with an image called the homunculus on Dec 1, 1937. 5
4. Dr. Robert Bruce Salter, awarded the “Giants of Medical Research” title by the University of Toronto, is best known for his “Salter Operation” which he first performed in 1957 to repair congenital hip dislocations. He also demonstrated that immobilization after surgery was harmful and that surgery should actually be followed by continuous motion to stimulate the formation of new cartilage. 6
5. In 1958, Dr. Robert Noble and Dr. Charles T. Beer isolated a potent alkaloid extract, vinblastine, which demonstrated inhibitory effects on white blood cells and bone marrow. This purification process was a critical milestone in the progression of cancer chemotherapy. 7
6. Child-resistant medical containers were designed by Dr. Henri J. Breault in 1967. They were adopted in his hometown, Windsor, Ontario, and child poisoning incidents dropped by 91%. In 1974, Ontario made child-resistant medicine containers mandatory. The rest of Canada and the United States followed shortly thereafter. 8
7. Dr. Bruce Chown developed an early-stage test for fetal Rh status. He also developed an anti-Rh immunoglobulin which protected affected babies in Canada and across the world. In 1968, Rh immunoglobulin was licensed. 9 10
8. In the late 1960s, the Canadian endocrinologist named Dr. Henry G. Friesen discovered human prolactin. You can watch him recount the story of prolactin in this YouTube video, dated 2016. Dr. Friesen also developed the drug Bromocriptine, which was useful as part of the treatment for fertility issues. 11
9. Dr. Vera Peters proved in the mid 1970s that the more conservative management of early-stage breast cancer with lumpectomies followed by radiation was as effective as a complete mastectomy. Her findings were not accepted by the medical industry in the beginning but have since been confirmed by multiple other studies. Lumpectomies and radiation are now common practice when treating early-stage breast cancer in Canada and the world. 12
10. Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui made an incredible genetic breakthrough in 1989 when he discovered the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. This has improved and lengthened the lives of patients with cystic fibrosis and has also paved the way for individualized medicine, which will benefit patients with various genetic diseases. 13
Canadian medical discoveries in 2020
Although the year 2020 has been challenging for all with the COVID-19 epidemic, many Canadians are tirelessly helping to fight this battle. Some are doing research, administering tests, analyzing samples, treating patients and educating on public health. Multiple researchers at various Canadian universities and Canadian biotech and pharmaceutical companies are working at the speed of light to deepen the understanding of the biology involved in COVID-19 and to develop COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, many of which seem very promising. It’s a race, it’s also challenging to get the required funding, but the collaboration that is being witnessed is unparalleled and will undoubtedly result in Canadians and many throughout the world to return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle, free of the fear of this innovative disease. They all deserve to be recognized for their hard work and sacrifices because none of them signed up for this situation. I am confident that Canadians and people around the world will benefit from the research of our Canadian scientists’ discoveries over the next year or so.
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- “The Discovery Of Insulin | The Canadian Encyclopedia”. Thecanadianencyclopedia.Ca, 2020, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-discovery-of-insulin. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- Basu, Sanjay et al. “Estimation Of Global Insulin Use For Type 2 Diabetes, 2018–30: A Microsimulation Analysis”. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, vol 7, no. 1, 2019, pp. 25-33. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/s2213-8587(18)30303-6. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- “Norman Bethune MD | Canadian Medical Hall Of Fame”. Cdnmedhall.Org, 2020, https://www.cdnmedhall.org/inductees/normanbethune. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- “A Science Odyssey: People And Discoveries: Wilder Penfield”. Pbs.Org, 2020, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhpenf.html. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- Catani, Marco. “A Little Man Of Some Importance”. Brain, vol 140, no. 11, 2017, pp. 3055-3061. Oxford University Press (OUP), doi:10.1093/brain/awx270. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- “Remembering Dr. Robert Salter”. Sickkids.Ca, 2020, http://www.sickkids.ca/AboutSickKids/Newsroom/Past-News/2010/dr-robert-salter.html. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- “Charles Beer Phd | Canadian Medical Hall Of Fame”. Cdnmedhall.Org, 2020, https://www.cdnmedhall.org/inductees/charlesbeer. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- “Henri J. Breault MD | Canadian Medical Hall Of Fame”. Cdnmedhall.Org, 2020, https://www.cdnmedhall.org/inductees/henribreault. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- “Bruce Chown, MD | Canadian Medical Hall Of Fame”. Cdnmedhall.Org, 2020, https://www.cdnmedhall.org/inductees/brucechown. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- “Meet Canada’s Blood-Typing Pioneers | Canadian Blood Services”. Blood.Ca, 2020, https://www.blood.ca/en/research/our-research-stories/research-education-discovery/meet-canadas-blood-typing-pioneers. Accessed 1 July 2020.
- “Henry Friesen, MD | Canadian Medical Hall Of Fame”. Cdnmedhall.Org, 2020, https://www.cdnmedhall.org/inductees/henryfriesen#:~:text=Further%20endocrine%20research%20led%20to,treatment%20of%20infertility%20in%20women. Accessed 2 July 2020.
- Cowan DH. Vera Peters and the conservative management of early-stage breast cancer. Curr Oncol. 2010 Apr;17(2):50-4. doi: 10.3747/co.v17i2.467. PMID: 20404978; PMCID: PMC2854638.
- Moore, Charles. “25Th Anniversary Of Cystic Fibrosis Gene Discovery Breakthrough…”. Cystic Fibrosis News Today, 2014, https://cysticfibrosisnewstoday.com/2014/09/18/25th-anniversary-cystic-fibrosis-gene-discovery-breakthrough-commemorated/. Accessed 1 July 2020.