200 years of excellence at the Montreal General Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)

February 25, 2021

Montreal, March 31, 2021 – This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Montreal General Hospital (MGH), a pioneer institution of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) that has served its population faithfully through sweeping changes in the Quebec healthcare landscape. This milestone also coincides with the bicentennial celebrations of McGill University. Both institutions are linked by an interesting historical fact: it is the Montreal General Hospital’s founding physicians who established the university’s first academic unit and Canada’s first medical school, the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University.

To mark this important anniversary, several activities will be organized throughout the year, starting with a large-scale virtual exhibition launching today, March 31st. Created by the Art and Heritage Centre of the MUHC and the Montreal General Hospital Foundation, the virtual exhibit is a journey through 200 years of hospital history, medical innovation and exceptional individuals and teams.

“It’s fascinating to juxtapose the past with the present,” states MUHC President and Executive Director, Dr. Pierre Gfeller. “Only 200 years ago, Sir William Osler, Francis Shepherd, George Ross and Thomas Roddick made the Montreal General Hospital the cradle of bedside training in Canada and now physicians, nurses and allied-health professionals are innovating in ways others could only imagine two centuries ago. I invite everyone to step back in time, think about today and envisage the future.”

An extraordinary history to explore online

The exhibit shines a light on the profound link between the growth of Montreal and that of the MGH, tracking its evolution from a standalone hospital serving 20,000 people in 1821 to the 1997 merger with four other institutions that created the MUHC. The MGH served its population through several major disease outbreaks, from the deadly influenza of 1918 commonly known as the Spanish Flu to the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent decades, it has developed into one of only three Level 1 trauma centres in the province.

Featuring photographs, artwork, text and videos from local and national collections, the exhibition also follows the hospital through the excitement and optimism of the biomedical revolution, highlighting breakthroughs such as Dr. Phil Gold and Dr. Samuel Freedman’s discovery of the Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA), the first biomarker for cancer; and Dr. Ronald Melzack’s contributions to pain theory, which paved the way for research and treatment protocols that address the complex social, psychological and physiological aspects of pain.

Originally conceived as a physical exhibit that was to cover the 6th floor of the MGH, the display had to quickly adapt to an online format due to COVID-19 restrictions. A second phase of the exhibit, profiling the key clinical activities that take place today at the MGH, will be added later this year.

 

Philanthropy vital to innovation

As the first public healthcare institution in the history of Montreal, the MGH always relied largely on funding from community sources to deliver state-of-the-art care, making donor generosity the cornerstone of its success to this day.

“The Montreal General Hospital Foundation is very proud to support the creation of a virtual exhibit for the 200th anniversary of our Hospital. This new platform is an invitation to travel through time and to witness the historical events that have shaped an institution whose fate is so deeply linked to that of Montreal. Philanthropy has always been vital to the success of our hospital.  Today, with this unique exhibit, we recognize two centuries of outstanding medical work accomplished by teams of dedicated individuals and supported by our generous donors.” – Jean-Guy Gourdeau, President and CEO, Montreal General Hospital Foundation.

 

Other celebratory activities

Aside from the virtual exhibit, other exciting activities are on the bicentennial menu: a special edition of McGill’s Holmes VP-Dean Distinction Lectures featuring the McGill Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Dean, Dr. David Eidelman, and the MUHC’s President and Executive Director, Dr. Pierre Gfeller, and delivered by professor and former Harvard Medical School Dean, Dr. Joseph B. Martin; a book launch by celebrity hockey surgeon Dr. David Mulder; various public lectures, including a “Mini-Med” series on topics ranging from Mental Health and Aging to Trauma and Emergency Care; the inauguration of a Prize in Clinical Innovation; and several employee recognition activities.

The theme for the 200th is Reaching and Exceeding, inspired by the Robert Browning quote “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.”  The logo features an infinity symbol, which represents the endless pursuit of excellence of the healthcare workers and support staff of the Montreal General Hospital, who continue to reach beyond their grasp for the benefit of patients and their families.