Dean On Campus Blog

The Macklem House and a Canadian Medical ‘Hero’

As you may know, I always sign off these blogs with “please stop by the Macklem House, my door is always open”. I’d like to dedicate this column to Peter Macklem, the famous Canadian physician, who last week was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. But first, a word about his mother, Katherine Bermingham Macklem.

Katherine Macklem was a friend to Queen’s.  After her husband died, Mrs.Macklem surrounded herself with medical students taking them in as borders in her house. I remember a few years ago, Hugh Scully, a cardiac surgeon at the University of Toronto, was attending a reception at the Macklem House. He took me upstairs and showed me “his room”, the place he had lived in for a year while he was a Queen’s medical student. When Mrs. Macklem died, she left the house, in her estate, to Queen’s. It was first used by our clinical trials group and now it serves as the administrative offices of the decanal team. The house is a wonderful place to work. I always feel privileged to be there, overlooking Lake Ontario, and being constantly reminded of our Faculty’s rich history.

Katherine had two sons, Peter and Richard. A picture of the two boys hangs proudly in the “lobby area” of the house. I had the opportunity to meet Richard, Joy and the rest of the family at the celebration last week. Peter, who died suddenly 14 months ago, was one of my teachers as a medical student at McGill. Even “back then” Peter was a world renowned respirologist and respiratory physiologist.  He made pioneering contributions to the study of small airway disease and the effects on the lung of smoking. Last week’s Medical Hall of Fame citation adds…”With a bold curiosity and a gifted intellect, Dr. Macklem’s impact was also felt in other areas of respiratory disease, ranging from asthma and stuttering to the study of the theory of complexity and its implications for pulmonary function.”1 Dr. Macklem has been richly honoured, including being a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer in the Order of Canada. In 1999, Dr. Macklem was awarded the Trudeau Medal of the American Thoracic Society, the highest honour bestowed by the international respiratory community.

Peter’s wife Joy and their daughter Catherine, accepted Peter’s posthumous award and in a beautiful ceremony in Toronto last week. They are seen below receiving the medal from Alain Beaudet and Cecil Rorabeck.

If anyone has any stories about Peter Macklem, or the Macklem House, let us know, or better yet…please stop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.



9 Responses to The Macklem House and a Canadian Medical ‘Hero’

  1. R. John MacLeod says:

    I met Peter Macklem when I was studying how villus enterocytes regulated their volume after either hypotonic swelling, hypertonic shrinkage or after Na+-nutrient induced swelling (ie Glucose or L-alanine cotransport) at the Montreal Children’s Hospital ~1991.. Macklem was trying to understand how Xenopus oocytes regulated volume perturbations. I got to present my work to him and his graduate student, and remember the acuity of his questions and the jab and thrust of a scientific argument (I don’t remember whether it was about his data or mine). My boss said I did good (which was really high praise), but at the time I had no idea who MacLem was- ie whether the standard deference to senior people should be applied; I just thought if your experiment was bad you should be told….. I next talked with Macklem after returning to Canada from the Brigham&Womens in Boston, and he was more interested in why I was at Queen’s and not McGill. He was quite wise about academia,

    • reznickr says:

      Dear Dr. MacLeod,

      Thanks for your comments and perspectoives on Dr. Macklem. I too, as a medical student, remember his probing questions.


  2. Jocko Lockett Meds' 66 says:

    Aloha kakahiaka Dr. Reznick,

    I too had the priveledge of rooming at the Macklem house (I succeeded Hugh Scully).

    Mrs. Macklem was a gracious lady who was very generous and considerate of medical students and I count myself lucky to have stayed there.

    I often wondered why she took on a roomer- perhaps it was because she was away frequently and wanted someone on board to look after her very large cook/housekeeper with a rather bright pink complexion-a gushing lady who was so big I often wondered if she might not explode at any moment. (My 2nd year clinical acumen led me to believe she had congestive heart failure and maybe hypothyroidism to boot-in retrospect I think she was just BIG!). She sure could cook ‘though-she introduced me to Baked Alaska-I couldn’t fathom at the time how ice cream could survive being in the oven. (Still can’t, come to think of it).

    One of the benefits of staying there was being able to get up on the roof via a hatch after accessing the attic so that one could lie in the sun (while studying, of course).

    Not to mention that the 3rd year Student Nurses’ Residence was next door!!

    I met Peter Macklem and his family while at Macklem House during Easter weekend. He and his family all came down from Montreal to be with his mother over the holiday. And naturally, since Finals were just around the corner, I was studying hard (or perhaps should have been-memory fails as to which!) At any rate, Catherine was very young, running all over the house and making a commensurate amount of noise and commotion in general, and at one point unexpectantly burst into my room. With her dad Peter hot on her heels. He was very apologetic, and patiently explained to Catherine that I was a Medical Student studying hard (!) and that she must be very quiet. And she was.

    And everything worked out just fine. I passed that year (although as my classmates were wont to point out-“with a failing average”), and I got to go to the Nurses’ Graduation Ball and around midnite watched them all throw their black shoes tied together with their black stockings over the Thousand Island Bridge!

    Fun to talk story Brah ’bout dos days, yeah?

    A hui hou,

    Jocko Lockett

    • reznickr says:

      Dear Jocko, what great memories and great stories! Peter was a very fine man and indeed an Canadian hero. I am so delighted hat you have shared your experiences at the Macklem house with us. I am still trying to figure out the meaning of the throwing of the shoes and stockings over the bridge.


      • Jocko Lockett says:

        A rite of passage.

        As student nurses they all HATED black shoes and stocking (I thought they were kinda sexy) and as bona fide Graduate RNs they could wear white shoes and stockings!


  3. Jocko Lockett Meds' 66 says:

    A rite of passage.

    Student Nurses wore black shoes and stockings and HATED them! (I thought they were kinda sexy myself.) So upon graduating and becoming RN’s they could rid themselves of their onerous black shoes and stockings and wear WHITE shoes and stockings-their new badge of being newly-minted, fully-fledged, RNs.



  4. Richard Parson says:

    I realise I’m a little late responding to this article but feel I have an almost unique view of Macklem house. It has been quite a while since I stayed at 18 Barrie Street. I especially remember when the family would come together and enjoy her company and marvelous feasts in the grand dining room. I remember exploring the attic and playing the marble game in the playroom that all young people who visited enjoyed greatly. I was six when Mrs. Macklem passed away and have only the fondest memories of my great grandmother and her literally wondrous house.

    I have been meaning to visit, I haven’t since she passed. I count myself blessed for being one of only three of Peter’s grandchildren to have visited my Granny Kake’s house.

    -Richard Patrick Macklem Parson,
    Son of Katherine Macklem and
    Grandson of Dr. Peter Macklem.

  5. reznickr says:

    Thanks for responding to the blog. I do hope you stop by next time you are near Kingston. I would love to have a cup of coffee, show you the house again, ad share some stories about your grandfather, who was one of my teachers at McGill.

    Thanks again and all my best,

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