Past events

Jane’s Walk 2023

Irv Rosen describes Norman Bethune's life and work [Photo: C. Rutty]

Members of the Toronto Medical Historical Club invited the public to join us on a 1.5 hour walking tour of key sites in our city’s medical history on May 5, 6, and 7. Peter Kopplin organized the tour and developed a script full of interesting details about medical discovery, art, architecture, and the people behind them.

Peter Kopplin at Women's College Hospital
Peter Kopplin at Women’s College Hospital [Photo: D. Mazierski]

Additional help in planning and leading the tour came from Alison Li, David Mazierski, and Charles Hayter.

John Dirks discussed J.J.R.Macleod’s contribution to the discovery of insulin in front of the Macleod Auditorium. Irv Rosen shared his knowledge of Norman Bethune’s life and work.

At the MARS Building, Christopher Rutty led us through the excellent exhibit on the insulin discovery and Ken Pritzker helped us to appreciate the work of James Till & Ernest McCullough.

John Dirks at Macleod Auditorium [Photo: C. Rutty]
John Dirks at Macleod Auditorium [Photo: C. Rutty]

We had a terrific group of participants and gorgeous sunny weather for the first two days, and a smaller group of stalwarts who came out despite the rain for our concluding walk. It was a great opportunity for us to share our enthusiasms with the public.

Statue of Till & McCullough
Alison Li at the statue of Till & McCullough [Photo: C. Hamm]

Past events

Medical Discovery Walk at Jane’s Walk

Join Peter Kopplin, Charles Hayter, Alison Li, and the members of the Toronto Medical Historical Club for a walking tour of important sites in Toronto’s medical history, as part of this year’s Jane’s Walk.

Friday, 5 May 2023
Saturday, 6 May 2023
Sunday, 7 May 2023
1:00 PM. – 2:30 PM

Language: English

Theme: Architecture and Urban Planning, History and Community

Accessibility: Busy sidewalks. Walk leader will use audio amplification

Start location: 160 College Street, a few steps west of College and University. Walk leaders will have Jane’s Walk sign.

End location: Queen’s Park SE subway station


“Radical” by Charles Hayter

Village Players presents a Zoom presentation of Charles Hayter’s play Radical, based on the true story of Dr. Vera Peter’s battle to improve breast cancer treatment.

Written by Charles Hayter
Directed by Bridget Jankowski, with Meg Gibson
Produced by Bill Hammond
(Drama with strong imagery)

Live ZOOM Performances: Friday and Saturday, April 14-15, 2023 – both @ 8:00pm
For tickets and more information visit Village Players

Charles Hayter is a physician and award-winning playwright whose most recent book is Cancer Confidential: Backstage Dramas in the Radiation Clinic (University of Toronto Press, 2022)


Canadian Lipid Nanoparticle Research

Left to right: Thomas Madden, Pieter Cullis, and Michael Hope [Photo: Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia]

Congratulations to Christopher Rutty on his new article in The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Canadian Lipid Nanoparticle Research: The Key to COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines.” Chris’ article describes the ground-breaking work of Pieter Cullis, Michael Hope, and Thomas Madden at the University of British Columbia in studying and developing lipid nanoparticles systems for drug delivery. In addition to many important applications such as delivering anti-cancer drugs to tumours, their research made possible the unprecedented speed with which COVID-19 mRNA vaccines were developed and delivered amid a global pandemic.


Dr. Caroline Sophia Brown

Trinity Medical School in 1871. Caroline Sophia Brown graduated from the Ontario Medical College for Women, then affiliated with Trinity Medical College, in 1900. [Photo: University of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services – Image Database]

Dr. Caroline Sophia Brown (1862-1936) was known for her keen intellect and seemingly inexhaustible physical vigour. She practiced medicine in Toronto for over twenty-five years, including at Women’s College Hospital. Her advocacy of women’s rights and her concern for the welfare of children are evident in her many achievements in education, medicine, and public service. A entry on Brown, written by Alison Li, appears this week in the latest volume of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.


Public Health Siblings: Donald and Frieda Fraser

From left to right, Dr. Donald T. Fraser and Dr. Frieda H. Fraser, with R.C. Parker and R.D. Defries at the School of Hygiene, c. 1940s. Image: Archives, Sanofi Pasteur Canada (formerly Connaught Laboratories).

Christopher Rutty is leading a collaborative effort of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the University of Toronto Archives to explore and promote the archival collections relating to public health. Chris demonstrates that much can be learned about history of public health through a study of the personal and professional fonds held in the U of T Archives.

The first of a series of articles that he is writing for this initiative is a profile of Donald and Frieda Fraser: “Public Health Siblings; Donald and Frieda Fraser: Profiles From the Public Health History Archives, University of Toronto”

Insulin 100 News

“It Works! Now What?” by Christopher Rutty

Photograph of the Connaught Laboratories ca. 1923 [UToronto, Insulin collection]

Congratulations to Christopher Rutty whose new article ““It Works! Now What?” Insulin Development, Production, and Distribution at Connaught Laboratories, University of Toronto, 1922–24″ appears in the Canadian Journal of Health History.

Chris’ article focuses on Connaught’s intimate involvement in the history of insulin from January 1922 through the summer of 1924, tracing the challenges and innovations of developing larger-scale production methods, the establishment and expansion of Canadian insulin production capacity, and the key role the labs played in spearheading the global distribution of insulin.


Cancer Confidential by Charles Hayter

Warmest congratulations to our own Charles Hayter whose new book Cancer Confidential: Backstage Dramas in the Radiation Clinic is just out from University of Toronto Press. Cancer Confidential is a vivid, moving, and beautifully-written memoir that sheds light on the mysterious and often maligned specialty of radiation oncology. Weaving together the stories of his patients, colleagues, and his own father, Hayter deals with some of the most painful experiences in life with great courage, compassion, insight, and honesty.

Order your copy here today or through your favorite bookseller.

“All the [medical] world’s a stage! In elegant prose, with Felliniesque flights into whimsical metaphor, physician-historian-playwright Charles Hayter describes his encounters with cancer, as a doctor and as a son, and how the experience changed him as a person. Sensitive to the arrogance and obfuscation of his clinical colleagues, he advocates for the underappreciated power of radiation therapy in cancer care and for truth in all relationships.”

Jacalyn M. Duffin, Professor Emerita and Hannah Chair of the History of Medicine, Queen’s University
Insulin 100 News

Heritage Toronto Award Nomination for The Discovery of Insulin: Special Centenary Edition

The Special Centenary Edition of Michael Bliss’s The Discovery of Insulin has been nominated for a Heritage Toronto Award in the Book category. This edition features a new preface by the late Michael Bliss and a new foreword by Alison Li.

The Heritage Toronto Awards is the city’s premiere heritage event which showcases achievements in the heritage sector. Winners will be announced live at the Heritage Toronto Awards, which will be held on Monday, October 17, 2022 at the Carlu (444 Yonge Street). 

Insulin 100 News

“Insulin: the discovery that transformed diabetic care” on BBC World Service

Charles Herbert Best, Canadian physiologist who assisted Frederick Banting to isolate Insulin, in his laboratory. Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Alison Li joins Victor Joergens and Kersten Hall in a panel discussion hosted by Bridget Kendall of the BBC World Service – The Forum. They discuss the twists and turns in the story of the discovery and development of insulin.

Broadcasts May 26 at 5:06 and 19:06 local time and May 29 9:06 local time or visit The Forum to listen.

Free podcast/download through iTunes: