Wendy MacDonald Chair
Photo: Nicolas Morin

“Holmes Hall has never had this many people in it,” said Dean David Eidelman, MDCM’79, addressing a standing-room only crowd assembled on the evening of Wednesday, June 3 for a joint announcement, with the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, of the Wendy MacDonald Chair in Pediatric Medical Education.

“I think fifteen people in the room are former students of mine,” said Wendy MacDonald, BSc’66, MDCM’70.

Over the course of her thirty-five-year career in the McGill Department of Pediatrics, MacDonald wrote more than 5000 student evaluations and 600 letters of reference. Every two months, she would take a new batch of thirty-two students under her wing for the Clerkship in Pediatrics. “I used to say, if I meet you on the street six months from now and I know your name, it’s not really a good sign.”

“It’s hard to imagine somebody more deserving, who has touched the lives of so many learners,” said Dean Eidelman. He explained that MacDonald had won the Osler Award for Outstanding Teaching four times, leading to the introduction of the “MacDonald Rule,” whereby a faculty member can only be granted the Osler Award once every ten years.

“I share this Chair with all the faculty members who contribute to the medical education of these young people,” said MacDonald. “It will provide much-needed and very welcome resources.”

“I said yes very quickly. It was a Chair that said medical education is important. Probably 90% of the physicians who practice with or around the MUHC teach. I’m very honoured to be recognized this way.”

MacDonald thanked the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, which funded the Chair, in part, through its annual golf tournament.

Major donor Stan Zack also spoke briefly on what had motivated him and his wife Vicki to make a gift. “Vicki taught all her working life. She has had a firsthand experience of the difference that the effective transfer of knowledge can bring to young minds.”

“I was so impressed by them,” said MacDonald of the couple. “They knew the value of education.” MacDonald mentioned that it was a welcome change to have a Chair for medical education, rather than, for example, research.

“It’s important to realize that philanthropy is the future of academic medicine,” said Michael Shevell, BSc’80, MDCM’84, Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Pediatrician-in-Chief at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the MUHC, and a former student of MacDonald’s. He noted that MacDonald had told him “that she knew it was finally time to retire when the Dean of Medicine and the Chair of Pediatrics were both former students of hers.”

About these two, MacDonald quipped that they had probably rated a “meets expectations.”

“This marks the fourth Chair in collaboration with the Children’s,” said Dean Eidelman. “We have three people in the room after whom Chairs have been named,” including Dr. Harvey Guyda and Nicolas Steinmetz, BSc’59, MDCM’63.

Also in attendance were two former deans, Dr. Richard Cruess and Abraham Fuks, BSc’68, MDCM’70, and Charles Scriver, BA’51, MDCM’55, DSc’07.

When asked how he knew MacDonald, Scriver said, “She was a very wise and excellent post-doctoral fellow in our lab where we did human and medical genetics, and she discovered at the end of the year that she did not – capital N, capital O, capital T – want to do those things that we did in our lab. I think that shows how wise she was. She went on to do what she could do – and did it brilliantly. I’m very happy for her.”

MacDonald closed the evening by saying, “I’m so pleased and so proud.”