Sunday, June 30, 2019

I will remember you (Musings on Marion Lewis, an extraordinary Canadian)

On June 27 Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, announced new appointments to the Order of Canada. Included in the honours was Marion Lewis of Winnipeg, who at age 93 was named an Officer of the Order of Canada (Further Reading).

As my early career was in Winnipeg I was well familiar with Marion Lewis and Dr. Bruce Chown. In 1944, she and Dr. Bruce Chown opened the Rh Laboratory to study and eradicate Rh hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN).

The blog's title is based on a 1995 ditty by Sarah McLachlan.

In 1943 Marion Lewis graduated from high school and trained as a 'medical technician' at Winnipeg General Hospital (now Health Science Centre). In those days there were no post-secondary institutions training what today we call medical laboratory technologists/scientists ('biomedical scientists' in UK and Down Under). As noted, only a year later she was at Winnipeg's Rh Laboratory with Dr. Bruce Chown.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree she became a Full Professor in the Dept of Pediatrics and 2 years later a Professor in  Dept. of Human Genetics. Normally that's reserved for those with MD or PhD degrees. In 1971 Marion shared AABB's Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award with Dr. Bruce Chown in 1971. To me, it's AABB's most prestigious award. And it's not the only AABB award she received.
  • Karl Landsteiner Award
  • Past recipients (Check these TM giants out: Levine, Wiener, Race, Sanger, Morgan, Watkins, Mollison, Dausset, Blumberg, Crookston, Bowman, Issitt, Gallo, Montagnier, et al.)
It's fascinating that in 1950-51 Marion Lewis needed a break and spent four months at an Italian university studying Italy's language and culture. Then she spent another three months studying in London with Dr. Robert Race and Dr. Ruth Sanger of 'Blood Groups in Man' fame. In 1951 Marion returned to Winnipeg and the Rh Lab. And the rest is history (See her University of Manitoba biography in Further Reading).

Please read Further Reading for Marion's unique career.

Of course, I knew Dr. Jack Bowman of Winnipeg's Rh Lab well as he was the Medical Director of Winnipeg's Can. Red Cross BTS while I still worked there. Wrote a blog when he died in 2005 (Further Reading).

Chose this Sarah McLachlan song because I will always remember transfusion medicine giants and especially folks like Marion Lewis who rose from humble beginnings to great accomplishments on the strength of intellect, skills, and hard work.
As always, comments are most welcome.



  1. It is wonderful to see someone who contributed so much to our chosen science, transfusion medicine, recognized in this way.

  2. Thanks, 'unknown.' And well overdue. You need to be nominated & I suspect someone realized it needed to be done now, given Marion's age.Really glad they did as it's so well deserved.