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ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Impressive intersection

Andrew Dobrowolskyj

As part of the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of McGill's most famous medical man, the stretch of Drummond Street north of Doctor Penfield Avenue that houses the Faculty of Medicine was renamed Promenade Sir William Osler this fall. Doctor Penfield (formerly McGregor) was renamed in the '70s for neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield. As a young man and Rhodes scholar, Penfield was strongly influenced by Osler, who was Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, and referred to him as "a hero to the rising generation of medical men." Penfield even convalesced at Osler's home after a German torpedo blew up the ship on which he was crossing the English channel to serve in a Red Cross hospital in France in 1916. Penfield joined McGill's medical faculty in 1928, and went on to found the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital in 1934. It was at the MNI that he became something of a medical hero himself, perfecting a surgical technique to treat severe epilepsy, mapping the functions of large areas of the brain, and ensuring that research and clinical practice remained closely linked -- the "bench to bedside" philosophy espoused by Osler.

Hot News Flash

While the National Post's World War III-sized banner headline of September 23 ("Scientists Reverse Menopause") was perhaps a little premature, the remarkable work of Dr. Richard Gosden and the first successful ovarian graft on a surgically menopausal woman has led to much futuristic speculation and editorializing about medical ethics. And now it's McGill's turn to mess with Mother Nature. At the same time that news of the successful research broke, Dr. Gosden announced that he would be leaving Leeds University in England to take a position at McGill as head of the reproductive biology department in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Gosden and surgeon Kutluk Oktay used cryogenically preserved ovarian tissue to reverse surgical menopause in Margaret Lloyd-Hart, a 30-year-old belly dancer from Arizona. Lloyd-Hart's newly grafted ovary then successfully produced an egg after being stimulated with hormones.

The fertility treatment was hailed as a "cure" for menopause, although Gosden and Oktay blame the press for this misconception. The research is designed to help young women rendered surgically menopausal or infertile by cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Nonetheless, it could conceivably be used to extend the fertility years in older women.

Dr. Gosden told The Medical Post that he chose McGill because "it has a major school of medicine with a strong genetic and developmental biology base, which will be one of the key areas in reproductive science in the next century. I knew I would find myself in the right environment."

His departure from Leeds drew cries in the British press of a U.K. brain drain (with Canada on the receiving end for a change) and was prompted in part by the resistance to biotechnology -- such as genetically modified food -- in the U.K. "It is difficult to be a scientist in Britain," said Gosden.

McGill gone to seed

Owen Egan

Cuts to higher education by the provincial government have finally taken their toll -- yes, that's the Arts building pictured above -- and the campus is starting to look more like a war-torn ruin than the Old McGill you remember.

In truth, the photo was taken during the filming of Battlefield Earth, based on a science fiction novel by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and set in the year 3000 A.D., when the planet faces a terrifying Y3K problem: John Travolta as a nine-foot tall alien taking over the world.

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