Dr Donald Enarson, 1946–2022

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 64, No. 9, November 2022, Page 403 Obituaries

Dr Donald Enarson

Dr Donald Enarson died unexpectedly at age 75 on 2 June 2022. Known to everyone as Don, he attended medical school at the University of Alberta, graduating in 1970. He trained in internal medicine at Vancouver General Hospital and the Mayo Clinic, joining the UBC Department of Medicine in 1980, becoming associate professor in July 1985, and full professor in November 1987 at the University of Alberta. His Christian faith in many ways dictated his career, and in 1974 he spent a year in South Sudan as a medical supervisor of the interdenominational Christian organization African Committee for the Rehabilitation of South Sudan. From 1978 to 1980 he served with Overseas Missionary Fellowship as a consultant in health in the Philippines.

Don’s lifelong interest in tuberculosis stemmed from his awareness that the disease preferentially affected the most socially disadvantaged. To this end, in 1991 he joined the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease as its first full-time director of scientific activities, based in Paris. During his tenure he made remarkable contributions. He wrote a seminal paper describing the five essential components of directly observed treatment short course, which was eventually adopted by the World Health Organization in 1994 and subsequently expanded around the globe. The strategy was later applied to other lung-health problems including asthma, COPD, pneumonia, and respiratory infections in children.

He also pioneered an epidemiologic approach to tuberculosis prevention and care, acted as a public health advisor in 42 countries, lectured in 72 countries, and coordinated training courses in 15 countries. Despite his extensive travels, he found time to author over 400 scientific publications. He was a mentor to many young physicians, always available to offer advice, supporting them in becoming knowledge experts themselves to, in turn, offer support in their low- and middle-income communities. In any meeting that Don attended, he was surrounded by throngs of attendees waiting to speak to him or just shake his hand.

In 2019 he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Alberta, its highest honor, recognizing lifetime professional achievement and service to society.

Don and I shared duties on the board of the BC Lung Foundation prior to his retirement. His style was to listen carefully to the issue at hand and then calmly give his sage opinion. Spending time with him in Paris was always memorable, as he was an enthusiastic gourmand and relished ordering unconventional dishes such as pigs’ ears and challenging his company to do the same! He orchestrated legendary meals at his home, where he would provide 20 to 30 dishes to choose from, all of which he made himself.

He was the quintessential professor and dressed accordingly, always sporting a colorful bow tie and blazer. Don was a warm, kind, caring physician; a gentleman; and a scholar. I can give him no higher praise. Nor indeed can his country, as shortly before his death he was awarded the Order of Canada. He is survived by Penny, his wife and constant companion for what she describes as 46 wonderful years. He leaves a global legacy that BC and indeed all of Canada can be proud of.

Requiescat in pace.
—Kevin Elwood, MD


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Kevin Elwood, MD. Dr Donald Enarson, 1946–2022. BCMJ, Vol. 64, No. 9, November, 2022, Page(s) 403 - Obituaries.

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