Ramsay Hamdi, son of late surgeon Dr. Fouad Hamdi, holds the artificial spinal implant pioneered by his father 50 years ago, joined by Island Health board chair Leah Hollins and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix. Tim Collins/Victoria News

Pioneering surgeon’s legacy lives on in commemorative display at RJH

50 years have passed since Dr. Fouad Ahmed Hamdi performed ground breaking surgery

A truly innovative Victoria surgeon, Dr. Fouad Ahmed Hamdi was honoured this week for a list of accomplishments that included his pioneering 50 years ago of spinal cord replacement surgery.

Island Health board chair Leah Hollins, Health Minister Adrian Dix and others representing the medical community were at Royal Jubilee Hospital on Thursday to open a time capsule display featuring pieces of historical equipment and the stories behind them.

“When we look at the massive advancements in surgical procedures in the past 50 years, it’s really an amazing series of accomplishments,” said Dix.

”Preserving the past and learning from our history is incredibly important, and it’s great to be able to highlight surgical artifacts and interventions from which we’ve learned. By highlighting Dr. Hamdi’s surgical innovation, we’re able to see what great things we were capable of then, and what we’re capable of today.”

At the time of Hamdi’s innovative procedure – the first of its kind in Canada – newspapers across the country touted the surgery as a ground-breaking success. The patient, 65-year-old William Hamilton, recovered fully, leading to other similar surgeries and an outpouring of support for the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

At the same time, Hamdi and his colleague, Dr. Bill Gaddes, established a laboratory at the Jubilee which provided training opportunities for University of Victoria graduates. For his part, Hamdi was presented to the British Columbia legislature in 1968 and made an honourary citizen of Victoria in 1971.

His son, Ramsay Hamdi, attended the opening of the display and said he was happy to be honouring his father, who died in 2004. Donating one of the original spinal prosthesis to the Victoria Medical Society was a way of recognizing a passionate man, dedicated to learning.

“By honouring our father today, we know his spirit, his inventiveness and commitment to the wellness of others will continue to be recognized and shared,” said Ramsay.

Hollins said her organization is committed to honouring innovators of the past, but sees the recognition of past accomplishments as consistent with the philosophy of Island Health’s core philosophy.

“We’re pleased to showcase Dr. Hamdi’s medical contributions 50 years ago. It’s also an opportunity to highlight that we continue to support innovation that puts patients first. It’s what we strive for,” she said.

Celebrating Hamdi’s work and displaying equipment from the 1960s and earlier is part of the hospital’s move to honour advancements in surgical procedures and the groundbreaking role the Royal Jubilee Hospital has played.

The Victoria Medical Society is working toward restoring the Pemberton Memorial Operating Room as a medical history museum and a home for the society’s medical archives and offices. The operating room was built in 1896 for the princely sum of $3,614 with funds donated by the estate of J.D. Pemberton,the first Surveyor General for the colony of Vancouver Island.

It was granted National Historic Site designation in 2006 and work to restore the operating room as a history museum has been ongoing.

The display of artifacts related to Hamdi’s work will be displayed at the Royal Jubilee Hospital Patient Care Centre’s atrium throughout February.

editor@vicnews.com

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