News & notes from the BCMJ archive: Dr Wallace Wilson

BCMJ Vol. 8, No. 6, June 1966 was dedicated to Dr Wallace Wilson. The name Wallace Wilson is frequently uttered by BCMA staff and members because one of our meeting rooms is named after him (and is where most BCMJ Editorial Board meetings take place), but how many of us know anything about this great medical man who was born in 1888 and died in 1966?

Dr Wallace Wilson’s leadership and authority in medicine is well documented, as is his service to country and community. Dr Wilson: 

• Was a friend and counselor to the aged and poor of Vancouver.

• Had a special interest in the University of British Columbia and gave his summer house, Little Rock, on Bowen Island, to UBC to provide a peaceful haven for members of the university community.

• Had a great interest in the very heart of the university—the library.

• Was married to Mrs Ethel Wilson, one of the greats in Canadian literature. 

In his tribute in the March 1966 issue, Dr J.H. MacDermot, then BCMJ editor, referred to Dr Wilson as “gentle, soft-voiced, tolerant yet [he] had the steel in him, of clear integrity, and courage.” This is what some of his friends and admirers had to say (BCMJ 1966;6:228): 

• Dr Norman Mackenzie—“I knew Wallace as a wise and generous friend and as one with a special interest in the University of British Columbia… Wallace and Ethel were among the most civilized, cultured, and interesting people I have ever known… They were both modest and kindly, but stimulating and wise. …”

• Dr Frank Turnbull, in 1925—“When the doctors of BC were debating whether they should secede from the CMA and join the North-West Medical Association, which was chiefly American, Wallace Wilson was one of a small group out for the CMA, and for the advantage of maintaining ties with Canadian medicine. From then on he never swerved in his loyalty to the national organization.”

• From a letter to Mrs Ethel Wilson (sender unknown)—“… he contributed throughout his life to the betterment of his fellow men. He was a delightful conversationalist, a man of infinite jest, an ever faithful friend, a genuine humanist, a doctor dedicated to the highest ideas of his profession; a good citizen; a man of never flagging courage; a gentle gentleman; a great Canadian.”

Dr MacDermot, reflecting on the many praises heaped on Dr Wallace Wilson, wrote that the words “are inspiring, and they are published here in the knowledge that somewhere in our profession today, or even in our Medical School student body, there are others whose contributions to medicine and their fellow men will be as great as that of Wallace. Perchance this collection of tributes may serve as inspiration.”

—Kashmira Suraliwalla
BCMJ Production Coordinator

Kashmira Suraliwalla. News & notes from the BCMJ archive: Dr Wallace Wilson. BCMJ, Vol. 50, No. 2, March, 2008, Page(s) 73 - News.

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