A day of shared remembrance

This Remembrance Day, Dr. Howard Cameron, MD’50, and his son Douglas will attend the services at the Cenotaph in Victoria Park. It’s a time they have shared together since Douglas was a young boy. It’s a time Dr. Cameron cherishes. “Remembrance Day just intensifies my memories of the time I served, and of my pride,” said Dr. Cameron. “I think about how fortunate we are to live in this great country of Canada.”

Dr. Cameron was 18 years old and fresh out of high school when he joined the army. After training locally, he travelled to England in 1940. There he became and Lieutenant and crossed the channel to France to serve with his unit across Europe.

As the memories of the war flood back to Dr. Cameron for another year, he chooses to share stories that are somewhat unexpected. Stories like that of “Homer”, a puppy his unit adopted while they were establishing a gun position in a farm yard in Germany.

Or about the daffodils that seemed to defy the destruction around them and grew up on a patch of green grass in a bombed-out city. “We were grinding our way through the city with self-propelled guns, and I spotted a small patch of green grass about one yard square; it was covered in yellow daffodils. It was somewhat incongruous that this beauty could exist in all of the rubble. I have never looked at a yellow daffodil again in the same way,” he said.

When the war ended, Dr. Cameron returned to Canada and decided to take advantage of the Veteran’s Rehabilitation Act (VRA), which paid university tuition for veterans. He attended a tutorial class to brush up on his skills, and there he met a young man who talked about applying to medicine. He decided to apply as well, and his application to The University of Western Ontario was accepted.

Dr. Cameron became a member of the Class of 50. The entirety of the class was veterans, thanks to Western’s then President G. Edward Hall, who was a veteran himself. The initial class of 45 was then joined by an additional group of veterans the following January, creating The Veterans Class.

The Class of 50 was united from their first day together. “We had all come from the same direction,” said Dr. Cameron, “so we quickly made friends.”

Together they experienced academic success along with outstanding achievements in the arts and athletics. “We were a very active class, and the maturity of being in the service was likely behind this,” said Dr. Cameron.

At their convocation ceremonies, 90 men and one woman graduated as the Class of 1950. They then dispersed across Canada and the United States to do their internship and build their practices. Dr. Cameron first went to Ottawa for a year to complete his junior internship. He then started a year of surgical training with the renowned Dr. Angus McLachlin. Four years later, he completed a fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

He returned home to London, Ontario and set up his orthopaedic surgery practice and began teaching at the medical school.

Grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend medical school, the Class of 1950 established a bursary fund in celebration of their 10-year anniversary. “Our medical school tuition had been paid for us, and we felt a moral responsibility to repay our debt, and we thought this bursary could help,” said Dr. Cameron.

Initially the fund provided about $50 for a student. Today, the fund totals nearly $300,000 and it supports several students each year in various amounts up to as much as $2,700.

In 2000, on the Golden Anniversary Reunion year for the Class of 50, a plaque was placed in the lobby of the medical school inscribed with the names of the class members and including their motto: “Service is a life time commitment.” That same year, the Class also received the University’s Class Award Citation – the only class at that time to receive the honour.

As Dr. Cameron considers this year’s Remembrance Day commemoration, he recalls a time, when he and his son almost missed the opportunity to pay their respects at the cenotaph. “I had an emergency surgery, and it was running late, so we missed the service. But when I went home, Douglas, who was only about seven years old, ran up to me and asked if we could still go. It was around 2:00 p.m. and we went to the park, it was still and quiet, and we had the chance to once again pay our respects.”

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry also has a proud and longstanding relationship with our Canadian Forces that dates back to 1917, when the School first established the legendary No. 10 Stationary Hospital, a mobile hospital service that treated more than 16,000 patients in Europe during World War I, and more than 21,000 patients in World War II.

The continued involvement by members of our faculty has been recognized with NATO’s highest honour for medical support, reminding students of the importance of serving our broader global community while providing opportunities to learn and develop new techniques and protocols to better care for people afflicted by war and natural disasters.

On this day, we thank all the members of the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry family who have served as members of the Canadian Forces, and to all members of the Canadian Forces for what they have done for our country and continue to do.