Robert MACBETH

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  • "My sincere condolences Michelle & Harold. Sending hugs,..."
  • "We mourn the passing of one of Canada's pillars of surgery...."
    - Vivian McAlister
  • "Dear Aunt Monique and family, Your husband and father was..."
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MACBETH, Robert Alexander (Bob)
B.A., M.D., M.Sc, (Hon), RACS, FRCSC
August 26, 1920 - June 17, 2014
A life well lived by a scholar and a gentleman ended:
Bob was born in Edmonton, Alberta, son of Dr. Alfred William and Agnes (Lewis) Macbeth. He was predeceased by his only sister, Mary Ester Macbeth. He received his primary and secondary education in Edmonton and his B.A. and M.D. from the University of Alberta. A member of the accelerated medical course introduced during WWII, he served for two years in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps while in university and two years on active service in Canada. On discharge he embarked on two years training at McGill University, in research with Dr. J.B. Collip and as a teaching fellow in anatomy with Professor C.P. Martin. This was followed by four years of clinical surgical residency training at McGill, including one year spent in London, England at the British Postgraduate Medical School Hammersmith Hospital, supported by a Nuffield Commonwealth Travelling Fellowship. During his surgical training he fell in love with and married, on August 10, 1949, Monique Elizabeth Filliol, a French Huguenot nurse at the Montreal General Hospital. It was a love affair having lasted 65 years which would end with Bob's death.
Monique and Bob have four daughters: Michele A. (Harold G) Cliff, Nicole E. (David B.) Curtis, Danielle M. Macbeth (John Hawthorn) and Joanne L. (Paul D.A.) Cameron. The Cliffs added four grandchildren to the family: Joanna M. (Laurie) Baker, Lindsay G. (Devin) Graw, Adrienne S. (Andrew) Plaza and Robert H, (Amy Logan). The Curtises added two: Duncan M. and Meredith R., the Hawthorn's one Alexander F. and the Cameron's two: Julia N. and Daniel A.M. In addition Monique and Bob have 7 great-grandchildren, Violet, Freddie and Alice Baker, Carter and Travis Graw, and Callum and Ellie Cliff. It is a remarkably close and supportive family group. Monique and Bob love and admire their daughters, their sons-in-law and their grandchildren deeply and unconditionally, a love that was returned many fold.
On completion of his surgical training and success in the surgical fellowship examinations of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Bob returned to Edmonton and joined his father in general surgical practice at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. In 1953 he was appointed to the teaching staff of the Department of Surgery at the University of Alberta. He excelled at teaching and in 1957, was appointed a full-time associated professor in the Department, relocating his practice to the University of Alberta Hospital. In 1960 he was promoted to professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery and director of Surgical Services at the University Hospital, positions in which he served with distinction for fifteen years. This challenging and rewarding period in his professional life included a memorable year of sabbatical leave. Accompanied by Monique, Danielle and Joanne he studied medical history at the American School of Classical Studies, Athens, Greece; cancer research at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France; and visited surgical centres in the United Kingdom.
In 1975, at age 55, he gave up surgery to take a position at Dalhousie University's medical education program in Saint John, New Brunswick. After 2 years, he was appointed chief executive officer of the Canadian Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute of Canada in Toronto, a position he held until 1985. This period included the Society's sponsorship of Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope, a remarkable young man who Bob admired greatly. Bob was appointed as the executive director of the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine in Toronto, a position he held until full retirement in1991.
In his multifaceted career as surgeon, teacher, cancer researcher, association executive and historian of medicine he published 85 scientific papers in journals or as book chapters, and authored a book on the history of the Department of Surgery at the University of Alberta covering the first half century (1922~1975). In addition, he represented Canada with distinction as a volunteer on the international scene and made a significant contribution the Canadian organizations representing his interests. As a surgeon he served on the Council of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and as a governor of the American College of Surgeons. He was a member of the American Surgical and (American) Western Surgical Association and a volunteer office bearer of the James IV Association of Surgeon and also the International Surgical Group. He served as the Canadian representative on the Administrative Council of the International Society for the History of Medicine and was extensively involved in L'Union International Contre le Cancer as a member of Council and chairman of the Union's Adult Education Program.
Bob's many awards included the Moshier Memorial Medal for general proficiency and the Outstanding Achievement Award of the Medical Alumni Association of his Alma Mater. He was the recipient of both the James H. Graham Award of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeon of Canada and the John B. Neilson Award of Associated Medical Services (Hannah Institute of the History of Medicine.)
His was a busy and demanding life of service to his family and the many causes he espoused, a full life richly served and richly rewarded.
Cremation has already occurred. The family will celebrate Bob's life at a future date. For those who wish to make an in memoriam gift in his name, the family would appreciate donations to the R.A. Macbeth Library and Archives Fund of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, 774 Echo Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1S 5N8.
The family may be contacted through [email protected]
The family wish to express their sincere thanks to the caregivers of the Red Cross and VON nurses (CCAC) and the staff at Hearthstone for the amazing care given to Bob and the family during his illness.

Published in The Edmonton Journal on June 21, 2014
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