McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

First chair of anesthesia at McMaster dies

Published: February 17, 2016
Donald Catton
Dr. Donald Catton

Dr. Donald Catton, professor and the first chair of anesthesia of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, died at the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton on Feb. 9. He was 85.

"Don Catton set a tone of University and community collaboration in the creation of the academic department of anesthesia," said Norm Buckley, chair of the Department of Anesthesia. "He was the only inaugural department chair to be recruited from the clinical milieu in Hamilton, and he worked diligently to engage his clinical colleagues in the academic activities. Dr. Catton also recruited nationally and internationally to create excellent educational and research programs."

Catton was a graduate of the medical school at Western University who spent time as a medical officer for the Royal Canadian Air Force before joining the staff of Hamilton Civic Hospitals as an anesthetist in 1964. He joined the fledgling medical school as a professor in 1970, was the founding chair of the department for nine years beginning in 1971.

"I had no concept of teaching or research. I had to hire people of expertise," he said later of the early days.

His brief monograph with Robert Stringer on the history of anesthesia in Hamilton places the arrival of the medical school in local clinical context for the profession.

Besides his role at McMaster, he held leadership roles at Hamilton hospitals, the Ontario Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. Catton became president of the Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in 1986. He retired from McMaster in 1988, and he received the Canadian Anesthetists’ Society Medal for meritorious service in 1989.

He leaves his wife Eileen, three sons and their families. A private interment is planned.

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