History is a torch to illuminate the past that we may avoid mistakes in the future and understand the present. It is as necessary in medicine and science as in other human affairs. Few, if any, in today's tumultuous world, have so well recognized the challenge and met it with as much talent and productivity as has Charles Roland, an alumnus of the University of Manitoba and one of the world’s most eminent medical historians.
Charles Roland was born in Winnipeg in 1933, attended high school in Kenora followed by pre-medical studies at the University of Toronto. He then entered the Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba and graduated M.D., BSc.(Medicine) in 1958. After internship at St. Boniface Hospital he began general practice in Tillsonburg and in Grimsby, Ontario. In 1964 he was appointed Senior Editor, Joumal of the American Medical Association, based in Chicago, and a Lecturer in the History of Medicine at North Western University School of Medicine. Early in 1969 he became Chairman, Department of Biomedical Communications at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. With the advent of the Mayo Medical School in 1970, he became Associate Professor, History of Medicine and in 1973 Professor at the Mayo Medical School. During these years he progressed through a meteoric career in medical journalism and medical history that culminated in his appointment as Jason A. Hannah Professor of the History of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. He has held that position since then, as well as being an Associate Member of the Department of History at McMaster University.
Dr. Roland's contributions are numerous and comprehensive as teacher, author, editor, researcher, administrator and role model. His students have included medical residents, post-doctoral fellows, members of faculty, nurses and librarians as well as medical and history students. He was recognized for Excellence in Teaching at McMaster University in 1988. His publications and public lectures are nearly numberless and are comprised of history and bibliography (18 books and 15 book chapters as well as nearly 300 journal articles), medical communications (2 books in scientific writing and about 50 articles), and medical (one book translated into seven languages, and several articles). He has served as Editor-in Chief of the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History and on the editorial boards or as a reviewer for an additional twenty publications. Among his favorite topics are Osleriana in which he is recognized as an international authority in the United States, England and Japan, and military medicine. His book Courage Under Siege: Starvation, Disease and Death in the Warsaw Ghetto was awarded the 1994 Hannah Medal by the Royal Society of Canada. Currently he is engaged in preparing two books on health and disease in prisoners-of-war camps during World War II. One of these will be mainly devoted to the experience of Canadian and other prisoners in Hong Kong and Japan; the other will be an account of prisoner experiences in all theatres of war in World War II.
Dr. Roland's outstanding contributions have not gone unnoticed - recognition by his peers is shown by his election to the presidency of at least four prestigious organizations in his field. He was President of the large and influential American Medical Writer's Association, 1969-1970, the Medical Historical Club of Toronto 1977-1978, the American Osler Society, 1986-1987 and the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine, 1993-1997. A popular speaker, he has delivered scores of lectures throughout Canada and the United States and invited presentations in France, Germany, United Kingdom, Greece and Japan.
Never in the history of the world has the medical profession had so much to offer to the ill and the injured in the science and technology of medicine and yet never has its motives and methods been more challenged. Dr. Charles Roland has reminded both the profession and the public of the noble traditions of the medical profession and fostered a return to the humanitarian art of medicine which has served humanity so well. For this we are most grateful and honour him today.