DR. HEATHER ONYETT, BAH (Toronto), DTM&H (Liverpool), MPH (Johns Hopkins), FRCPC, FAAP, Professor Emeritus, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada Dr. Heather Onyett's earthly pilgrimage ended on January 6, 2020. Dr. Onyett was born and raised in northern Ontario. These early personal experiences with remote communities had a profound influence throughout her life. After graduating with an Honors degree in Modern History from the University of Toronto, she spent two amazing, life-changing years as a volunteer with Canadian University Service Overseas teaching in French in rural Burundi, Africa. This experience opened her heart to the importance of medical care in remote and/or impoverished communities. Upon returning to Canada, she graduated from the new medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland as their first pediatrician. She then spent over five incredible years as Chief of Pediatrics with the International Grenfell Association as the solo pediatrician providing primary, secondary and tertiary care for the Aboriginal, Inuit and settler children living in remote communities of northern Newfoundland and Labrador. Her commitment to Global Health issues had been an important factor in her professional and personal life for over fifty years. She studied Tropical Medicine, receiving the Gold Medal in International Community Health from the School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Liverpool, England. She completed her Masters of Public Health degree at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA, and was inducted into Delta Omega Alpha, the National Honorary Public Health Society. She became a Pediatric Infectious Diseases specialist of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. This enriched her clinical and public health knowledge and skills when she spent vacations volunteering as a pediatrician in rural under-resourced areas including Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Cambodia and Vietnam. In 1987, Dr. Onyett joined the Faculty of Medicine at Queen's University, becoming a tenured Full Professor of Paediatrics, Microbiology and Immunology, Community Health and Epidemiology, Rehabilitation Therapy, prior to becoming Professor Emeritus in 2012. She founded the Infectious Diseases service. For the first three years she was the only Infectious Diseases specialist for adult and pediatric patients. As a clinician for twenty-five years, Dr. Onyett organized specialty clinics in Tropical Medicine and Travel Health, provided General Pediatrics coverage for inpatients, Emergency Department and on call. For ten years she was also Director of the Regional Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Dr. Onyett served on numerous Queen's University, national and international committees, including President of the Medical Staff of the Hotel Dieu Hospital, Kingston. She was Chair of the Infectious Diseases Curriculum Committee of Queen's University, Chair of the Education Committee of the Canadian Infectious Diseases Society, a member of the Canadian Advisory Committee on Tropical Medicine and Travel, a member of the Indian, Inuit and Metis Committee, the Injury Prevention Committee, and the Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee as well as a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Paediatric Society. As an educator, Dr. Onyett was a trailblazer. She developed and taught numerous undergraduate, graduate and Continuing Medical Education courses in Infectious Diseases, Pediatric Advanced Life Support and Critical Care at Queen's University as well as International Maternal and Child Health courses in the Master's program at Queen's University and at Boston University School of Public Health. She developed and taught the first Canadian medical school undergraduate course in International Maternal and Child Health. She travelled to Guyana, South America during the summers to evaluate the students' Community Health Projects and to develop and present at Canada-Guyana medical conferences. She was Guyana Program Director for Health Volunteers Overseas/American Academy of Pediatrics International Volunteer Outreach to recruit pediatricians to teach at the new University of Guyana medical school. As Professor Emeritus, Dr. Onyett, developed and taught courses to 'Train the Trainers' on 'Saving Lives - Preventing Disability' at the Bangladesh Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed as a member of the Queen's University Centre of Excellence in Community Based Rehabilitation CIDA Muskoka Initiative. Dr. Onyett had been honoured to receive numerous teaching awards including the inaugural Queen's University Faculty of Medicine Excellence in Teaching Award, Boston University School of Public Health Summer Excellence in Teaching Award for Maternal and Child Health in Lower Income Countries. In 2016 she received the Life Membership Award of the Canadian Paediatric Society for 'tremendous dedication to advancing the health of children in Canada'. Dr. Onyett was blessed to serve as a clinician-educator mentoring hundreds of health care providers to provide excellent compassionate patient care and disease prevention in challenging regions of the world.
Published in The Globe and Mail from Jan. 25 to Jan. 29, 2020.