Over the past few months, our faculty and medical school have lost three people who made tremendous contributions over the course of their careers. Peter Munt, Robert Hudson, and Ed Yendt were all master clinicians, leaders in our medical community and contributors to our understanding of illness and disease. They were also gifted teachers and mentors who were always willing and eager to pass on their wisdom. As we approach the beginning of another academic year and are about to welcome a new class of medical students, it seems appropriate to reflect on the lessons and legacies that they’ve so ably provided.
Dr. Peter Munt was recruited to Queen’s after postgraduate training in Respiratory Medicine to head the newly formed Division of Respirology and Critical Care Medicine. He went on to head the Department of Medicine through a time of tremendous transition, and then became Chief of Staff at KGH. As his medical resident many years ago, I recall caring for a patient with a pulmonary infection eventually traced to a rather novel organism. Not content to simply identify and treat the infection, he encouraged me to identify the source and explore for any patients who may have suffered from similar infections. By doing so and documenting the results of our search, we were able to contribute to the care of many more patients, and raise awareness among other physicians of a little appreciated source of infection. Moreover, he taught me and my fellow residents the importance of pursuing root causes and the value of documentation and publication in disseminating knowledge. His career, both as a physician and administrator, was characterized by this quality of uncompromising attention to all facets of an issue, and unwillingness to accept the expedient solution.
Dr. Bob Hudson was head of our Division of Endocrinology for many years. In addition to his clinical responsibilities, he maintained a very active research career making important contributions to the understanding of androgen function. I’ll remember him for his dedication to physical examination and bedside teaching. His ward rounds were highly valued by housestaff. Not content with mere identification and demonstration of physical findings, Dr. Hudson challenged us to understand the underlying cause and pathogenesis. “So I agree this patient has exophthalmos” he would concede, but always follow with something like “but why do patients with thyroid disease develop this finding? What’s the mechanism?” His great skill was to help the learner work his or her own way through the problem without intimidation or belittlement. In fact, you emerged from these sessions not simply knowing something about a particular finding, but with a mechanism that could be applied to a variety of findings and conditions.
Dr. Ed Yendt had already developed a reputation as a leading specialist in calcium disorders by the time he was recruited to Queen’s to head the Department of Medicine. He led that department through a period of rapid growth, and development of many of the subspecialty divisions. He continued to do basic research through his career, becoming an internationally recognized expert in osteoporosis. Always a dedicated clinician, he continued to see patients long after usual retirement age and long after financial considerations provided any motivation. He was the embodiment of what we would today refer to as “translational” or “bench to bedside” research. I had opportunity to talk to him on numerous occasions in recent years, and was continually impressed at his knowledge of recent literature and eagerness to apply new findings to his patients. He was intrigued by patients with unusual presentations or responses to therapy, and continually used those experiences to learn more and apply that knowledge. He never lost his excitement for discovery or dedication to patient care.
Three great teachers, three different styles, but all sharing an insatiable curiosity, dedication to advancing the science of medicine, and to applying that science to their first concern – the care of their patients. Their families might find some solace in the knowledge that those lessons are not lost and that their examples and teaching will continue to inspire our students and those currently charged with their learning.