WILLOUGHBY, Charles




Author Tags: Physician Author

Born in Cookstown, Ontario in 1894, Charles James McNeil Willoughby was the son of a general store operator who moved to Toronto in 1908 for the purposes of his children's education. Charles Willoughby graduated in medicine from University of Toronto in 1916 and served with the British Medical Corps in World War One. He served in Mesopotamia, India and the Western Front in France and Belgium. "Over the years I have seen many changes in the care of patients," he writes in his medical memoir, From Leeches to Laser (Self-published, 1991). "Some like the leech and maggot have disappeared, other remedies remain and new treatments are being developed." When the war ended, Willoughby expressed his opinion to authorities that all soldiers who had venereal diseases should be examined and, if necessary, treated for latent conditions. "The social implications of these diseases had not been recognized by society in general," he writes, so his recommendations were essentially rebuffed--leading him to his decision to specialize in surgery. Willoughby examined the possibilities of studying at the Mayo Clinic but opted to study at the Illinois Post Graduate School in Chicago. In 1920 he bought a one-way train ticket to Portland, Oregon via the Canadian west, stopping at various cities in the Prairies. Stopping at Kamlooops on a cold but sunny April afternoon, he visited the Tranquille Sanitarium. Uninspired by the wetness of Victoria and Vancouver, he decided to accept a job offer to work in Kamloops by the time he had reached Portland. "I really had a feeling that as a Canadian I would prefer to see the development of my native country," he writes. "This was a decision I have never regretted."

In 1920, Willoughby became the sixth medical man in Kamloops at the time. While working at the Royal Inland Hospital, Willoughby met and married Nova Scotia-born medical student Marjorie Archibald whose parents were living in Kamloops. Their 55-year marriage would produce four children; Marjorie (Snowden) of Kamlooops, Lorene (Gemmill) of Winnipeg, Ann (Chidwick) of London and King, Ontario, and John Archibald Willoughby (1931-1987), a paediatric physician in souther British Columbia. In the mid-1920s, Charles Willoughby joined the Burris Clinic. His son John would join the same clinic in 1963. It grew into a large office centre in downtown Kamloops. The second half of Willoughby's memoir chiefly concerns various medical procedures and prominent medical personalities in his life, including "Freddie" Banting and Norman Bethune ("He was a kindly, friendly individual of immaculate appearance). Dr. Charles Willoughby nominated Davie Fulton to enter politics in 1945. In 1963, when Fulton proceeded to become leader of the Conservative Party in Canada, Willoughby was elected to serve as a Member of Parliament for the Kamloops-Cariboo riding from 1963 to 1965. At the time there were only two medical doctors serving as MPs in Canada. "I do not recall any Minister of Health being a medical man," he writes. During the signing of the Columbia River Treaty, Willoughby met President Lyndon Johnson and Prime Minister Lester Pearson at Grand Falls, Montana, and at the formal ceremony at the Peach Arch in Blaine, Washington.

"I am an optimist about the future," he concludes, "because are handing it over to the younger, better educated and thereby more informed generation... I say 'Au Revoir' to the 20th Century which has provided so many great accomplishments in medicine. I am confident the new century will see greater things built on the sound basis already provided."

[Available via Royal Inland Hospital, 311 Columbia Street, Kamloops, B.C.]

[BCBW 2007] "Medicine"