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Article

Cardiac Pacemaker

In 1950, one of Canada’s greatest medical innovations was developed at the University of Toronto’s Banting Institute. Cardiac surgeon, Dr. Wilfred Bigelow and research fellow, Dr. John Carter Callaghan were trying to understand how hypothermia (see Cold-Weather Injuries) could slow the beating of an animal’s heart before surgery. They were also looking for a way to stimulate the heart when it faltered as it cooled. This largely unknown area of research could have tremendous applications for humans. The doctors partnered with Dr. John A. Hopps from the National Research Council of Canada, who created a portable artificial external pacemaker. It was designed to send electric pulses to the heart, which caused the heart to contract and pump blood to the body. The device was successfully tested on a dog in 1950. This landmark discovery paved the way for the use of implantable pacemakers in humans.

Article

Nobel Prizes and Canada

The Nobel Prizes are awarded annually for achievements that have significantly benefitted humankind. The prizes are among the highest international honours and are awarded in six categories: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace, and economics. They are administered by the Nobel Foundation and awarded by institutions in Sweden and Norway. Eighteen Canadians have won Nobel Prizes, excluding Canadian-born individuals who gave up their citizenship and members of organizations that have won the peace prize.

Article

Avian Influenza in Canada

Avian influenza, commonly known as “bird flu”, is a contagious viral disease that can affect several species of birds used in food production (e.g., chickens, turkeys), as well as pet birds, wild birds and some mammals (see Poultry Farming). The viruses responsible for the disease can be classified into two categories: high pathogenicity or low pathogenicity. The highly pathogenic H5N1 subtype of the avian influenza virus is transmissible to humans. In Canada, cases of avian influenza must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Article

Royal Victoria Hospital

Royal Victoria Hospital, Montréal, is a teaching hospital affiliated with McGill University. Its original building on the southern slopes of Mount Royal is the premier Canadian illustration of pavilion-plan hospital architecture.

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Indigenous Peoples' Medicine in Canada

Since time immemorial Indigenous peoples in Canada have been using plants and other natural materials as medicine. Plant medicines are used more frequently than those derived from animals. In all, Indigenous peoples have identified over 400 different species of plants (as well as lichens, fungi and algae) with medicinal applications. Medicine traditions — the plants used, the ailments treated, protocols for harvesting and application, and modes of preparation — are similar for Indigenous peoples across the country. In many Indigenous communities, there are recognized specialists trained in traditional medicine, and their practice often reflects spiritual aspects of healing as well as physical outcomes. In many cases, the therapeutic properties of Indigenous medicines are attributable to particular compounds and their effects on the body, but in other instances, their application is little understood by western medical practitioners. Within Indigenous communities, specific methods of harvesting and preparation of medicines are considered intellectual property of particular individuals or families.

Article

Shaking Tent

Shaking Tent rite was widespread among the Ojibwa, Innu (Montagnais-Naskapi), Cree, Penobscot and Abenaki and involved the shamanistic use of a special cylindrical lodge or tent.

Article

Hospital Architecture

The financial sources and social mandates of hospitals have varied widely over the past 400 years. The earliest hospitals included military and marine hospitals, as well as Roman Catholic and then Protestant benevolent institutions.

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SARS in Canada

Canada experienced an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. Most of the infections originated in Toronto hospitals. The outbreak led to the quarantine of thousands, killed 44 people and took an economic toll on Toronto. It also exposed the country’s ill-prepared health-care system. Confusion around SARS fuelled an uptick in anti-Asian racism and anti-immigrant sentiment.

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Article

COVID-19 Pandemic in Canada

COVID-19 is a severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by a new type of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that emerged in 2019. The virus caused the first cases in China and then quickly spread around the world. As of 25 September 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 612 million confirmed cases and 6.5 million deaths globally, including over 4.2 million cases and 44,992 deaths in Canada. It is one of the deadliest pandemics in world history and among the most disruptive and transformative on many levels, especially economically and socially.

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This is the full-length entry about the COVID-19 Pandemic in Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see COVID-19 Pandemic in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).

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Epidemics in Canada

An epidemic occurs when an infectious disease spreads rapidly throughout a community at a particular time. Several epidemics have occurred over the course of Canadian history, the most disastrous being those which affected Indigenous peoples following the arrival of Europeans.

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Article

Pandemics in Canada

A pandemic is an outbreak of an infectious disease that affects a large proportion of the population in multiple countries or worldwide. Human populations have been affected by pandemics since ancient times. These include widespread outbreaks of plague, cholera, influenza and, more recently, HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. In order to slow or stop the spread of disease, governments implement public health measures that include testing, isolation and quarantine. In Canada, public health agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels play an important role in monitoring disease, advising governments and communicating to the public.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

Article

Disability

Disability is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the temporary, prolonged or permanent reduction or absence of the ability to perform certain commonplace activities or roles, sometimes referred to as activities of daily living.

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Canadian Contributions to Medicine

Many important medical discoveries and advancements that have improved and saved the lives of people around the world have been made by Canadians and Canadian research teams. Treatments and technologies, some of which are still used today, are the result of their research and experimentation. This list overviews a few of the life-saving medical contributions made in Canada.

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Canada During COVID-19

Countries, communities, and individuals around the world are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. How will historians remember this time in history? Canada During COVID-19: A Living Archive is meant to capture the experiences of everyday Canadians as they live through this challenging time.

Article

Vaccination and Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada

Vaccination is the introduction of a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a disease. Vaccine hesitancy is the refusal or delayed acceptance of vaccination due to fears or anxiety about vaccines. It includes a range of concerns such as uncertainty about the contents of vaccines, their safety and the belief that vaccines are responsible for causing other medical conditions (e.g., autism). Other factors include opposition to state control and infringement on individual liberty, suspicions about the pharmaceutical industry and a declining faith in science and medicine. In Canada, as in other wealthy countries, vaccine hesitancy has increased in recent years, including resistance to vaccination among some Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the full-length entry about Vaccination and Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see Vaccination and Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).