McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Mac scientist named to Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

Published: October 14, 2010
John Bienenstock
Dr. John Bienenstock, a Distinguished University Professor at McMaster University

A McMaster scientist who has led the development of an understanding of how the immune system impacts the whole body has been nominated to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

Dr. John Bienenstock was named a 2011 laureate to the Hall of Fame that honours the nation’s medical heroes who have contributed to improved health in Canada and around the world through discovery and innovation.

Bienenstock pioneered the concept of the common mucosal system — the means by which the body's different mucosal surfaces, such as the gut, the respiratory tract and the reproductive system, share information to fight infection. His landmark studies have led to new approaches in immunization, and also to a better understanding of the structural and physiological links between the brain, nervous and immune systems in health and disease. He is an acknowledged international authority in these areas as well as in allergy.

He holds a position as a Distinguished University Professor at McMaster University and he is also director of the University’s Brain-Body Institute at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

"Many people that I have looked up to have been inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, so to be considered accomplished enough to join this community is a significant privilege," he said.

"For me personally, this award also recognizes that research is the foundation for the new advances in health care, and honours both the people, institutions, foundations and agencies who have supported my work, as well as the many trainees who have invested their time and effort in my research program."

Born in Budapest, Hungary and trained in the U.K. and the U.S., he was recruited to McMaster University in 1968, for what is now the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.

"When I began in this field, everything that was known about immunology was held in a couple of textbooks. Since then the field has exploded, and we now know the important impact of the immune system to everything from HIV, transplantation and even allergies.  I’ve had a lot of satisfaction from the discoveries we’ve made, but I’ve got a real kick out of seeing how trainees have developed, moved on and done well."

Bienenstock is one of McMaster's most cited researchers, having written several books and published more than 350 peer reviewed articles. He served as Dean and Vice President of the Faculty of Health Sciences during which time McMaster’s health programs and research greatly expanded and McMaster launched the first university based midwifery program.

He has previously received several awards for his work, including being named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Member of the Order of Canada.

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