In an era when every day brings news of the discovery of yet another gene or gene fragment, we do well to remember that the benefits of scientific advances can only be realized through painstaking studies of whole human beings by individuals who are expert in both basic research and clinical medicine. Today, the University of Manitoba honors an individual who is a brilliant exemplar of this duality of talent.
Lyonel Israels was born in Regina in 1926 and twenty years later, after receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University Saskatchewan, came to the University of Manitoba to study medicine. His choice of a professional career was not surprising given the influence of his older brothers, both of whom were distinguished physicians. After graduating with an M.D. degree in 1949 and an M.Sc. degree in 1950, Dr. lsraels undertook extensive postgraduate training -- first, at the University of Utah and then, as a McEachern Fellow of the Canadian Cancer Society, at the Kantonsspital in Zurich, the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford and the Royal Cancer Hospital in London.
Dr. lsraels returned to Manitoba in 1954 to join a cadre of young faculty members in the medical school who were committed to working at both the laboratory bench and the bedside to ensure that the fruits of medical research would be applied effectively to clinical practice. However, the clinical departments of the day were not adequately equipped to support research and so, like other budding clinician-scientists, he found his first scientific home in a basic science department. Later, as research laboratories were developed in clinical facilities, Dr. lsraels' research program could be located in closer proximity to patients. For nearly a half century, Dr. lsraels has made outstanding scientific contributions that span the whole spectrum of hematology. He has explored the normal biochemistry and physiology of cells in the blood and bone marrow, the detailed mechanisms involved in blood clotting and the metabolism of hemoglobin; and he has elucidated how these functions are deranged in disease. For example, Dr. lsraels was the first to demonstrate the role of an alternative pathway of bilirubin metabolism in producing hyperbilirubinemia. His work has been published in the most prestigious journals in the fields of hematology and oncology and the international stature he has gained is reflected in his role in the scientific councils of the Medical Research Council of Canada, the National Institutes of Health in the United States, the Gordon Conferences and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. In 1983, the University of Manitoba, on the recommendation of leading international scientists, appointed Dr. lsraels as a Distinguished Professor--the highest academic distinction the University can bestow on a regular member of its professorial staff. To this day he remains active in the laboratory, pursuing the elucidation of the role of Vitamin K in fetal development and tumor formation, and he continues to contribute regularly to the scientific literature.
Among his rich array of talents, Dr. lsraels' brilliance as a teacher has been particularly valued by many hundreds of students at all levels -- from freshman medical students to junior scientific colleagues. His thoroughness, lucidity and ability to convey complex ideas were the hallmarks of Lyonel lsraels as a teacher and were the attributes which prompted his election as Professor of the Year by the Manitoba Medical Students Association. They were also the basis of his success as a clinician and consultant. Beyond his commitment to personal excellence in teaching, he played a key role in reforming both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education at the University of Manitoba.
From the very beginning of his career, Dr. Israels exhibited outstanding skills as an administrative leader. He served as the Director of the Transfusion Service of the Manitoba Division of the Red Cross, Head of the Division of Hematology and Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine and Director of Research in the Manitoba Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation. He played a seminal role in the creation of the Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology and became its first director in 1970. In 1973 he was appointed Executive Director of the Cancer Foundation -- a position he held for twenty years and through which he, and the colleagues he inspired, brought modern scientific cancer care to Manitoba. Dr. Israels' skills as a scientist and organizational leader were also reflected in the prominent role he has played in local and national bodies. He has served as chairman, president, an officer or a member of such organizations as the Manitoba Health Research Council, the Canadian Haematology Society, the Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation, the Canadian Red Cross, the National Cancer Institute and the Medical Research Council. Dr. Israels has received several honors and awards during his remarkable career in recognition of his achievements. These include the St. Boniface General Hospital International Award, the Distinguished Service Award of the Manitoba Medical Association and appointment to the Order of the Buffalo Hunt and the Order of Canada. In 1996, the Lyonel G. Israels Chair in Hematology was established at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
In short, Dr. Lyonel lsraels is the complete medical academician -- clinician, teacher, scientist, citizen and leader. In all of these roles he exemplifies what is best in modern medicine; namely, the fusion of science and humanism that is the bedrock upon which compassionate and effective medical care rests. No one is more deserving than Lyonel Israels of the honor to be bestowed upon him by his alma mater in recognition of his outstanding personal achievements and of the compulsion to excellence he has fostered in others.