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Memorial's oldest alumnus dead at 104

Dr. Nigel Rusted at his home in St. John's.

By Sharon Gray

Dr. Nigel Rusted, Memorial's oldest alumnus and a member of the inaugural class of Memorial University College in 1925, died March 18 at the age of 104. He passed peacefully away at the Health Sciences Centre following a three-week stay in hospital.

A member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Newfoundland, Nigel Francis Scarth Rusted was born in Salvage, Bonavista Bay, in 1907 and spent portions of his youth in Upper Island Cove and Carbonear. He received his diploma in arts and sciences in 1927 from Memorial University College and then attended Dalhousie medical school, serving as health officer for two summers aboard the S.S. Kyle, which visited more than 50 communities along the Labrador coast. He spent time in the 1930s as a medical officer on the S.S. Kyle, travelling through coastal Labrador, and on the MV Lady Anderson along Newfoundland's southwest coast.

Dr. Rusted opened a private practice clinic in 1936 and went on to perform 9,000 operations before retiring from surgery in 1982. He was also appointed clinical professor of surgery at Memorial in 1968. 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 gave a lifetime of service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," said Dr. James Rourke, dean of medicine. "At his home he showed me the many meticulous records he had kept and described his life's work to me.

From a young doctor travelling along the coast on the S.S. Kyle, to a busy general surgeon in St. John's, he saw it all and did it all over more than a century of life. Dr. Rusted went away regularly to learn the best surgical techniques – a role model for continuing medical education. He was particularly proud of his cleft lip repairs and the many surgeries he did for no compensation. After he retired he continued to contribute to the medical school through the Dr. Nigel Rusted Lectureship in Medical Humanities. These brought in many fascinating speakers and his witty and insightful closing remarks added to the event."
Dr. Rusted kept abreast of recent developments in medicine through his reading. The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) was always at the top of his reading pile by the fire place in his home on Monkstown Road in St. John's. Last year that journal honoured him with a feature article. The article, titled Dr. Nigel Rusted: a CMAJ centenary reader, was written by Memorial University medical humanities historian Dr. Jennifer Connor and Dr. Rusted's granddaughter Angela Hyde, a MD/PhD student at Memorial.

Dr. Rusted kept a daily diary from 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.

Dr. Rusted received an honorary D.Sc. from Memorial University in 1973 and an honorary life membership in the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association in 2010.