McMaster University

McMaster University

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McMaster physician will be remembered for impact on rheumatology care

Published: January 30, 2006
Dr. William Watson Buchanan

A renowned Hamilton physician will be remembered for his distinguished accomplishments in the field of rheumatology.

Dr. William Watson Buchanan, 75, died on Saturday, Jan. 28. He was a McMaster University professor emeritus of rheumatology and had retired as a clinician with Hamilton Health Sciences in June, 2005.

Buchanan had won many awards for his work, including the 2004 Cullen Prize by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Scotland in recognition of clinical and academic excellence and the ‘greatest benefit done to practical medicine’. The same year, the Canadian Rheumatology Association recognized Buchanan as a "Distinguished Rheumatologist."

Buchanan, received his medical training with a specialty in endocrinology in his native Glasgow, Scotland.

He traveled to the U.S. to the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases on a postdoctoral fellowship, where he made a significant contribution to defining Sjogren’s syndrome, a chronic disease in which white blood cells attack the moisture-producing gland, resulting in a publication now recognized as one of the classics of medicine.

In 1964, upon his return to Glasgow, Buchanan built a reputation as a rheumatic disease specialist. His studies, in clinical pharmacology and the interaction of anti-rheumatic drugs, drew attention to the problems of their use in the elderly.

At McMaster since 1979, he became well known for his work as a clinician with a large number of patients; as a researcher, with more than 525 published papers on topics ranging from basic science to clinical trials in rheumatology and, as an educator, for his encouragement of new rheumatologists.

Dr. Walter Kean, a colleague of Buchanan’s and a clinical professor of rheumatology in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, said today: "He’ll be remembered for his friendship, his energy, his strength of character and his willingness to help anyone."

He pointed out that Buchanan had started up two international centres for rheumatology, first in Glasgow and then at McMaster, where "he took in for training a ragtag group and sent out groomed researchers and clinicians."

He said Buchanan knew people from all walks of life and had a wide and deep range of interests, including Scottish and English literature. Besides his research, Buchanan had published more than 100 other books and articles on non-medical topics.

Kean said they last spoke on Friday, as Buchanan was writing a letter of recommendation for a young scientist. "Dr. Buchanan was a true, old-fashioned academic. To the end, he cared about others."

The Dundas resident leaves his wife Margaret and his children Alan, James and Helen and their families. Visitation at the Cattel, Eaton & Chambers Funeral Home, 53 Main Street, Dundas will be on Tuesday, Jan. 31 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. The church service at Knox Presbyterian Church, 23 Melville Street, Dundas, will be on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 2 p.m.

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