Dr David Shephard, MB FRCPC


Dr David Shephard, an eloquent and distinguished physi­cian and talented medical writer, died on July 17, 2011 in Thunder Bay Ontario at the age of 81. Without a doubt, Dr Shephard will be fondly remembered by those with an interest in the history of our profession. He possessed unsurpassed knowledge and dedication to the history of anesthesia, particularly past accomplishments in Canadian anesthesia.

David Arthur Easton Shephard was born on April 4, 1930 in Southsea, England. He completed his secondary school education at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, England and studied medicine at the historic St. Thomas’s Hospital Medical School and London University in the United Kingdom. Dr Shephard then pursued a career in anesthesia initially completing residency training at St. Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Rochester, UK. He completed additional residency training in anesthesia in the United States at the esteemed Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. Dr Shephard practiced his chosen medical specialty of anesthesia in a multitude of settings, including the Royal Navy and in three countries, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.

Dr Shephard was an accomplished medical writer before becoming a distinguished medical historian. He was appointed editor of Scientific Publications (Biomedical Communications) at the Mayo Clinic and served in that role from 1972 to 1974. He then served as Editor-in-Chief of the important Canadian Medical Association Journal in 1976. He became a Fellow of the American Medical Writers Association and then went on to become its President in 1979.

Dr Shephard’s passion for medical history became his lifelong vocation. He documented the history of a number of medical societies, including The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada 1960–1980: The Pursuit of Unity, and the history of the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society (CAS) in Watching Closely Those Who Sleep: A History of the Canadian Anaesthetists’ Society, 1943–1993 as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the CAS in 1993.

Dr Shephard was the recipient of two Fellowships from the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library Museum as well as the Canadian Medical Association’s John B. Nielson Award, which recognized his contribution to the study of the history of medicine. While serving as Archivist for the CAS, Dr Shephard wrote numerous articles for the Journal regarding the influence of individuals on the advancement of anesthesia practice. In so doing, he ensured that many lives and lifelong contribu­tions to our specialty were documented, highlighted, and preserved. Dr Shephard’s monographs for the CAS, An Exhibit of Inhalers and Vaporizers (1847 – 1968) and Preserving the History of Canadian Anesthesiology – A Panorama of People, Ideas, Techniques and Events, were both written to accompany displays at annual meetings and are currently accessible on the CAS website. He wrote and contributed to a large number of other manuscripts related to the history of medicine. His published books include: John Snow, Anaesthetist to a Queen and Epidemiologist to a Nation: A Biography (1995), Island doctor: John Mackieson and Medicine in Nineteenth-Century Prince Edward Island (2003), and most recently, From Craft to Specialty: A Medical and Social History of Anesthesia and Its Changing Role in Health Care in which he comprehensively traced, documented, and referenced the evolution of anesthesia practice from a craft to a specialty and its role in health care in the context of a changing society.

Dr Shephard was a generous mentor who was always willing to share his extensive knowledge and to encourage those who were interested in the history of medicine, particularly over a meal or glass of wine. He enjoyed reading biographies and history, listening to opera and classical music, and playing bridge.

Through his life’s work, Dr Shephard ensured that individual’s important contributions toward the advance­ment of our profession would be appreciated and remembered by future generations of anesthesiologists. In 2005, when Dr Shephard stepped down from his position as Archivist for the Society, he was formally recognized for his outstanding contribution to the preservation of CAS history for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

It is fitting that his contributions will live on in his multitude of written works and in the archival collection and artifacts which he carefully preserved for the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society.

Kim Turner, MD
Can J Anesth/J Can Anesth (2012) 59:504–506