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Centenarian honoured by medical journal

Dr. Nigel Rusted, centre, with granddaughter Angela Hyde, left, and Dr. Jennifer Connor.

By Sharon Gray

At age 103, Dr. Nigel Rusted keeps abreast of recent developments in medicine through his reading. The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) is always at the top of his reading pile by the fire place in his home on Monkstown Road in St. John’s. Now that journal is honouring this remarkable man with a feature article.

The article, titled Dr. Nigel Rusted: a CMAJ centenary reader, is written by Memorial University medical humanities historian Dr. Jennifer Connor and Dr. Rusted’s granddaughter Angela Hyde, a MD/PhD student at Memorial. Available in print and online, the well-illustrated article follows the career of Dr. Rusted from his childhood in Upper Island Cove through his career in surgery to his active retirement and continuing interest in developments in medicine.

This engaging profile provides a glimpse into the life of a practising physician for much of the 20th century, during the pre-antibiotic era when pneumonia, tuberculosis, syphilis and other infectious diseases were often fatal.

“Rusted rarely wonders about medical innovations that would have aided his practice, although he notes antibiotics clearly ‘would have saved a lot of lives’ if they’d been available earlier,” writes Dr. Connor. “But he routinely laments some negative changes in the practice of medicine, such as too much reliance on technology and loss of authority (or respect) in the profession.”

Dr. Rusted was in the inaugural class of Memorial University College and received his diploma in arts and sciences in 1927. He attended Dalhousie medical school in Halifax, serving as health officer for two summers aboard the S.S. Kyle, which visited more than 50 communities along the Labrador coast. During his career in surgery he worked and held executive positions at all four hospitals in St. John’s and served Memorial University on its first Board of Regents and its Building Committee. He joined the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) when Newfoundland became the 10th province of Canada in 1949.

Dr. Rusted continues to keep the daily diary he began on Jan. 1, 1925, and his notebooks contain retrospective essays that he drew on for publications and interviews. His passion for the medical humanities prompted him to launch the Dr. Nigel Rusted Lectureship in Medical Humanities in 2003, which he continues to sponsor annually.

The article on Dr. Rusted is available online at