Dr John David Ewart Price, 1927–2013

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 56, No. 1, January February 2014, Pages 38-39 Obituaries

John D.E. Price, born on 26 April 1927, died on 30 April after a long illness. Dr Price was a pioneer of renal medicine in BC and much of the success now achieved in this field results from his early initiatives.

Raised during the interwar years in the lush green valleys and wooded dells of southeast England, John was enrolled in the Royal Dartmouth Naval College at the age of 13. He graduated in 1944 having won the King George VI gold medal, and briefly saw active service with HMS Newcastle and HMS Berwick in the Royal Navy before the war ended. 

Price won an Ajax scholarship to McGill, obtained a first-class honors degree in math and physics, and assisted in building the first cyclotron in Canada. He graduated in 1954, winning gold medals in clinical subjects and obstetrics and gynecology. He also received the J. Francis Williams Fellowship in Medicine.

Dr Price served his junior medical posts in Montreal and Vancouver, where he was appointed assistant resident at Shaughnessy DVA Hospital in 1955. That appointment may have been his introduction to hemodialysis, since it was there in September 1947 that Dr Russell Palmer[1] did the first successful hemodialysis in North America using Dr Willem Kolff’s original rotating drum machine, built by Dr Palmer using a blueprint the inventor had given him. By the time Dr Price arrived, however, the machine had been transferred to VGH where Dr Palmer, now head of the metabolic unit, supervised hemodialysis. 

From 1956 to 1958 Dr Price had a fellowship at VGH and the Department of Medicine at UBC. He collaborated with Dr Palmer, who arranged for him to visit Cleveland, Ohio—where Dr Kolff had immigrated, from Holland—to learn more about Dr Kolff’s new twin-coil hemodialysis machine. On his return Dr Kolff invited them to trial this equipment, which led to the publication of a paper entitled “Clinical trials with the Kolff Twin Coil Artificial Kidney” in 1957.[2]

There was no such thing as a renal unit in those days. Dr Palmer moved to St. Paul’s in 1962,[3] and from then on Dr Price was in charge—he expanded the renal program at VGH and developed the first renal unit in BC in 1964 with assistance from the late Dr Roland (Rolly) Lauener. Dr Price brought in several important partners, including Dr C.E. (Ted) Reeve who supervised the first kidney transplant in BC in 1968, the late Drs Henry Ballon and Michael Moriarty who further developed hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, Dr E.C. Cameron with research interests, and Dr Victor Chan, who launched the renal unit at the Royal Columbian Hospital in 1972. The first home hemodialysis patient was trained at St. Paul’s Hospital, but VGH followed soon after. 

Dr Price attained the FRCPC and FACP and was a full professor of medicine at UBC and head of nephrology at VGH. He was a good teacher, cared deeply for his patients, helped develop several nascent renal units throughout the province, and contributed to more than 30 important papers and many abstracts. 

In the 1980s Dr Price was invited to China as a professor and lecturer. He was a founding member of the Canadian Society of Nephrology, chair of the medical board of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, and a member of the Board of Directors of the BC Medical Association for 2 years.

Dr Price had several interests outside medicine: he served as chairman of the board of governors of York House School, director of an education committee at St. George’s School, and a director on the board of St. Andrew’s Church.

After retiring in 1990 to Salt Spring Island, Dr Price was named professor emeritus of medicine in 1992. He spent his last years in Victoria and Parksville.

Survived by his first wife, Nancy (nee Beattie), and their five children, and second wife, Barbara (nee Bristol), Dr Price will always be remembered by his family as an avid sailor and fisherman, happiest on the water with full sails, tight lines, and a book by his side. He will be remembered by the profession and many grateful patients as a crucial figure in the development of one of British Columbia and Canada’s leading renal/medical programs.

Dr Price was a strong supporter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada and the Steelhead Society; donations to either, or to your charity of choice, are welcomed.
—Angus Rae, MB, FRCPC


1.    Palmer RA, Rutherford PS. Kidney Substitutes in uraemia: The use of Kolff’s Dialyser. CMAJ 1949;60:261-266.
2.    Palmer RA, Price JDE. Clinical trials with the Kolff Twin Coil Artificial Kidney. CMAJ 1957;77:850-855.
3.    Rae, Angus. Russell Palmer: Forgotten champion. How victory in Holland launched the British Columbia renal failure program. Hemodial Int 2011;15:436-440.

Angus Rae, MB, FRCPC. Dr John David Ewart Price, 1927–2013. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 1, January, February, 2014, Page(s) 38-39 - Obituaries.

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