Canadians are best known for homemade maple syrup, mouthwatering poutine smothered with fresh cheese curds and their incredible love of the outdoor winter sport known as hockey.
But did you know that Canada is also home to some incredibly talented physicians?
It’s true. These talented physicians have discovered some medical breakthroughs for Canada. And, they have greatly contributed to medicine practiced worldwide, not only in Canada.
Here is a list of some of the incredible accomplishments of medical discoveries introduced to the world by Canadians.
1. First Infant Cereal, Pablum, a Medical Discovery in Canada
Created in the early 1930s by three Canadian doctors, Pablum was the world’s first ready-to-use baby cereal enriched with minerals and vitamins.
The three Toronto doctors responsible for this medical breakthrough invention were Theodore Drake, Alan Brown, and Frederick Tisdall. Each doctor was a staff member of the Sick Children’s Hospital.
Pablum provided a well-balanced meal for infants, added nutrition rich in Vitamin D to malnourished infant diets, and prevented rickets in children.
Pablum wasn’t the first solid food made for babies. However, it is credited for being the first-ever pre-cooked dry food to hit grocery shelves worldwide.
Pablum boasts of being simple to prepare and being non-perishable. It is the perfect solution for many underprivileged countries whose children were severely suffering from malnutrition at the time.
The easily digested cereal for infants does not contain nuts, eggs, or lactose, which can often be allergies for many children. The wholesome ingredients found in Pablum include:
Ingredients in Pablum
- Pre-cooked wheat
- Bone Meal
- Fortified Iron
Taken over by Heinz manufacturing in the 1950s, Pablum is still a popular baby cereal on the market today. Pablum is now offered in several flavours and is available to mothers worldwide looking for a nutritional food alternative for their infants.
2. Insulin, a Medical Discovery in Canada
The breakthrough discovery of the life-saving drug insulin is one of the most outstanding accomplishments made in the history of medicine.
But did you know insulin was also discovered right here in Canada?
The iconic Canadian scientist, Sir Frederick Banting, was the mastermind behind the discovery of Insulin. This new drug was one of the most profound medical discoveries of the 20th century.
Sir Frederick Banting went on to win a Nobel Prize for his incredible contribution to medicine. Insulin is used not only in Canada but around the world today in the treatment of diabetes.
For several centuries, diabetes was known by many individuals suffering from the disease. However, diabetes was better understood in the 19th century. Scientists discovered that controlling the pancreas was beneficial in stabilizing sugar levels in a person with diabetes.
It was not until 1921 that Sir Fredrick Banting and his team of medical professionals from the University of Toronto were able to put their experimental pieces of evidence together and come up with the discovery of insulin.
Insulin was introduced to the world in 1922. It has since been a life-saver for many sufferers of diabetes. Today, insulin helps millions of diabetics worldwide live a more normal life.
3. First Child-resistant Medicine Container Invented in Canada
A Canadian doctor from Windsor, Ontario, is the brains behind the invention of the “palm and turn” pill container lids.
Doctor Henri Breault was a physician and the director of a poison control centre in Windsor. He ran into several cases of children being rushed into the hospital for accidental medication poisoning. It became alarming to him, and he decided to take it upon himself to do something about it.
Doctor Breault’s new invention of child-proof pill containers soon became an outstanding Canadian discovery. Child-proof pill bottles became mandatory in Canada. Other countries soon followed suit, making child-proof pill containers mandatory in several parts of the world.
After the use of child-proof lids became mandatory, a drop in the incidents of accidental poisoning among children occurred worldwide. Child-proof pill containers are still mandatory today and have saved many lives since their discovery.
4. Open Heart Surgery and First Pacemaker, a Medical Discovery in Canada
In 1950, another crucial Canadian medical discovery was made by Dr. Wilfred Bigelow. He found a useful way to lower a person’s body temperature during heart surgery. This medical breakthrough was used on a patient undergoing heart surgery. It was put to work in 1953 for the first time in medical history.
After performing several tests, using hypothermia for reducing body temperature under anesthetics. Bigelow determined that the heart could sustain blood flow for up to fifteen minutes during heart surgery. Immediately following surgery, the body will gradually be re-warmed to normal. This procedure would make it possible to stop a heart by cooling it just long enough to do open-heart surgery.
Dr. Wilfren Bigelow also helped with the discovery of the pacemaker. It was much bulkier in 1950 than the pacemakers currently on the market today. The first cardiac pacemaker was the average size of a microwave when it first came out. This medical invention has paved the way for compact-sized pacemakers. They are still used for irregular heart conditions and heart disease in patients today.
5. Cystic Fibrosis Gene, a Medical Discovery Made in Canada
A genetic recessive disorder, Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited incurable disease that affects one in every 3600 children born in Canada. Cystic Fibrosis causes defects in the gene that produces mucous, digestive juices and sweat.
People diagnosed with CF are known to have thick, sticky mucous compared to others. Lungs may become easily plugged with mucous and cause severe problems for patients. A person’s life expectancy is greatly impacted by having CF. However, with advancements in medicine, life expectancy has improved compared to the past decades.
Some signs and symptoms of having cystic fibrosis may include:
Signs and Symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis
- In respiratory distress, a person gets easily winded, out of breath, and wheezes.
- Thick, sticky mucus
- Profused sweating that is salty
- Having a persistent mucousy cough
- Plugged nose and frequent sinusitis
- Tires easily with exercise
Scientists have been working hard to grasp a better understanding of this life-threatening disease. They are working hard to discover preventative measures that will prolong patients’ lives who are suffering from Cystic Fibrosis.
In 1989, Lap-Chee Tsui, a biologist from the Toronto Sick Children’s Hospital, along with his colleagues, made a discovery in identifying the gene causing cystic fibrosis. These doctors discovered that CFTR (Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator) is a chloride channel and a membrane protein in vertebrates of people identified as having cystic fibrosis.
These incredible accomplishments gained recognition in 1990. Tsui and two colleagues received the Gairdner Award in Canada for their outstanding contributions to medical research. This contribution is also hailed as one of the most profound genetic advancements in over 50 years and gives hope for more advanced screening for signs of cystic fibrosis in the womb and new ways of treating the disease.
6. The First Stem Cell Transplants were Performed in Canada
An outstanding contribution to the scientific community was made by Canadian doctors Ernest McCulloch and James Till.
In 1961, the dynamic duo uncovered the art of stem cell transplanting at the Toronto Cancer Institute. As a result of their discovery, several advancements toward stem cell transplants have been made.
In 1988, a hematologist from Hamilton, Ontario, Doctor Irwin Walker, performed the first Canadian stem cell transplant on a patient. The infused stem cell was received from a donor located in Minnesota, U.S.A.
This was a milestone for Canadian medical practices. In the past, stem cell donors were restricted to family members. However, this was the first successful stem cell transplant in Canadian history that was an unrelated donor. This brought hope to other patients waiting for a stem cell transplant. Now doctors can look for unrelated donors for them.
The Latest Innovations in Cell Transplant
In the early 2000s, Doctor Walker and his team began doing studies on cell transplants with half-matched donors when a recipient donor cannot be found.
In 2006, the Doctor Walkers team began performing stem cell transplants with half-matched donors. Today, almost every patient needing a transplant has a successful chance of finding a donor. Donors can be from a sibling that is matched, an unrelated donor that matches, or a family member that is a half-matched donor. Stem cell transplants have become more routine as a result of these innovations in stem cell transplants.
In 2013, a stem cell transplant was performed on a cancer patient with a donor who was a sister but not a match. This surgery was successful and the patient went into remission of her cancer.
7. Treatment for HIV Prevention Discovered in Canada
Doctor Julio Montaner and his team of scientists at the British Columbia Centre of Excellence dedicated decades of their time to the study of HIV medications.
In 1996, the team uncovered a combination of three drugs that were successful at helping to reduce the progression of HIV into AIDS. This new combination of medication was also successful at extending life expectancy for people with HIV.
HAART treatment (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) was a combination of three drugs, including Nevirapine, Zidovudine and Didanosine. This combination of medicine, to be taken on a daily basis, offered patients several benefits in the treatment of HIV, including:
- Slowing the progression of the disease
- Making symptoms of HIV more manageable
- Stopping the progression of HIV before it develops into AIDS
- Preventing death in HIV patients
8. Polio Vaccine Discovered in Canada
In the 1950s, polio became a deadly disease that rapidly spread across Canada. A polio epidemic peaked in 1953, causing a national crisis. Medical professionals fought hard to come up with a vaccine to help stop the deadly virus that was causing many people to become ill with the disease worldwide.
Canadian researchers at the Connaught Medical Laboratories in Toronto had a strong impact on the development of the first polio vaccine. Through this process, “medium 199” was developed to be used as a polio vaccine. After more large-scale testing, the polio vaccine was made available to the public in 1953.
This medical discovery by Canadian scientists helped significantly reduce the incidences of people with polio from 300 thousand cases worldwide in 1988 to under 40 cases in the world today.
9. Canadian Doctor Uncovers a Cause of Infertility
Doctor Henry Friesen was an endocrinologist from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. In the early 1960s, he discovered prolactin. Prolactin is a pituitary hormone that is responsible for fertility in women.
This medical discovery further led to the invention of a blood test that could help rule out infertility issues in couples attempting to conceive. Thousands of couples with prolactin-related disorders are now given a chance to have children as a result of this outstanding medical discovery in Canada.
Doctor Friesen went on to produce a drug called “Bromocriptine,” which has further helped to treat infertility in women globally. Bromocriptine is still widely used today in the treatment of infertility issues.
10. Ground-Breaking First Transplants Performed in Canada
Canada has an extensive medical history in regards to the discovery of life-saving transplants used to save people’s lives.
In 2017, a woman’s life was spared by doctors in Toronto, Canada who removed her severely damaged lungs before a transplant recipient was available for her.
Melissa Benoit was a 32-year-old woman with cystic fibrosis. She developed a fatal lung infection that quickly spread throughout her whole body. Although the doctors tried several types of antibiotics and treatments, they were successful at clearing up the deadly infection.
Just hours away from death, doctors from the General Hospital of Toronto were given permission by Benoit’s family to remove her lungs.
The outcome of Double Transplant Surgery
Benoit spent six days in a coma, lying in a hospital bed in the ICU. She was kept alive with the help of machines while the doctors waited for an organ donor. The machines kept Benoit alive by infusing her blood with oxygenated air and ridding her body of carbon dioxide.
The doctor’s last-ditch effort to save Benoit’s life worked. Within minutes of removing her diseased lungs, doctors noticed that Benoit’s blood pressure began to return to normal and her overall bodily functions were in less distress.
In six days, they had a donor match and Benoit was successfully given a double lung transplant. This procedure allowed her extra precious time to spend with her family members.
Unfortunately, Benoit passed away in late April 2017, just months after her double lung transplant, due to other complications stemming from her diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis. However, this incredible medical procedure of keeping a person alive for days without lungs is a giant leap for other patients waiting on a lung transplant for survival.
So there you have it. Canada has certainly made some incredible contributions to the world of medicine over the years. Through medical discoveries made right here in Canada, doctors and scientists continue to work hard at making new advancements in medicine every day.