On August 24, Dr. Balfour Mount, will receive the 2011 Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) Medal of Service. This medal is being presented in recognition of Dr. Mount’s outstanding and exceptional contribution to the advancement of health care in Canada. An internationally recognized pioneer and tireless advocate for quality end-of-life care, Dr. Mount has raised the standards of medical practice in North America and around the world while providing comfort and reassurance to the dying.
“Physicians are learning the importance of treating the whole person and not just the disease, and how medicine can offer compassionate and high-quality end-of-life care,” said CMA President Dr. Jeff Turnbull. “Dr. Mount has done an enormous amount to advance this important area of medicine.”
“On hearing of this award, I am deeply grateful to all those who have made it possible, specifically the members of our palliative care team at McGill’s Royal Victoria Hospital, whose compassion, professionalism and listening skills have been an ongoing inspiration to me over the past 37 years,” said Dr. Mount. “I also recognize the pioneering vision of the administration of the Royal Victoria Hospital, who accepted the challenge of addressing the needs of the dying when others chose not to. Finally, this award celebrates the contributions of our patients and their families. They became our teachers when palliative care was in its infancy. They taught us the way forward.”
After earning his medical undergraduate degree at Queen’s University, Dr. Mount trained as a urologist at McGill University and as a surgical oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. His intended career in surgical oncology at McGill was interrupted when a study of patients with life-limiting illness disclosed deficient care of the dying. His decision to focus his attention on end-of-life care led him to St. Christopher’s Hospice in London, England, where he trained with Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the hospice movement.
On his return to Canada, he founded and became director of palliative care at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal in 1975. The first program of its kind, it featured home care, a consultation service, a separate palliative care unit and bereavement follow-up.
Quality of life and care of the whole person were among his research interests. Teaching was a passion. Dr. Mount was appointed to the rank of professor at McGill, where in 1991 he founded the division of palliative care in the department of oncology, now known as Palliative Care McGill. For nearly two decades he also taught an annual one-day seminar with first-year medical students at Queen’s University.
Dr. Mount initiated McGill’s biennial international congresses on care of the dying in 1976, and acted as chair of the sessions until 2004. He is the author of more than 150 publications and has been involved in the production of numerous teaching films and audiotapes. He was awarded McGill’s Osler Teaching Award in 1997. He was also invited to deliver the first annual Cicely Saunders Memorial Lecture in London in 2006. “Palliative care has taught us that the most significant journey that each of us is on is directed inwards,” he said.
In 1994 he was named to McGill’s newly created Eric. M. Flanders chair in palliative medicine, and while serving in this capacity he initiated the McGill Programs in Whole Person Care (1999). Dr. Mount was named Professor Emeritus in 2006.
Dr. Mount is an Officer of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Quebec, and he has received honorary degrees from Dalhousie, Ottawa, Queen’s, Alberta, and McGill universities. In addition to being a founding member of the Canadian Palliative Care Association, he has received its Award of Excellence in recognition of outstanding contributions to hospice / palliative care in Canada. In 2001 he was the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. In 2008 he received the Herman Feifel Award for Exceptional Achievement in Thanatology from the International Work Group on Death, Dying, and Bereavement, and in 2009 he was named Great Montrealer (Scientific) by the City of Montreal.
Dr. Mount is the 41st recipient of the CMA Medal of Service. The medal will be presented at a ceremony to take place at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall at Memorial University during the CMA’s 144th annual meeting.