June 9, 1950

(Thorndale, Ontario)


MD, University of Toronto (1974)
PhD, Paris-I-Sorbonne (1985)

Awards & Honours:

2023: Hannah Medal of the Royal Society of Canada for book, Stanley's Dream

2020: Member of the Order of Canada

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Picture of Jacalyn Duffin

A powerful voice for the role of historical understanding in medicine

Portrait of Jacalyn Duffin

A Medical Historian, Haematologist, inspirational researcher, teacher, and advocate

Modern medicine emphasizes mastery of scientific and technical information, but Dr. Duffin argues that the humanities, notably history, form part of balanced, effective teaching.  Her classic textbook, History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction, presents encapsulated histories of medical specialties, featuring the cultural and social factors involved in their development. Concise and accessible, it introduces complex ideas about the social definition of illness and the moral ambiguity of discoveries and treatments.  Dr. Duffin has observed that “diseases are ideas,” an insight fundamental to all her work. As a bridge between the science and the humanities, her work helps others to see how changing perspectives affect society’s reaction to disease and those suffering from it.

Key Facts

Runs an activist website about the current drug shortage crisis

Was a top ten finalist in TVO’s Best Lecturer Series in 2007

Her research has taken her across Canada and the world including to the Vatican Archives and Easter Island

Her history of medicine textbook has been reprinted multiple times, translated into Korean, Spanish and Chinese, and a revised and expanded third edition appeared in 2021

Served as president of both the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine and the American Association for the History of Medicine

Her research has addressed a wide array of topics including diagnostic technology, rural practice, drug development, disease concepts, health policy, and an exploration of medical miracles in canonization

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Her passionate devotion to historical understanding as an inseparable element of humane practice inspires students, educators, and members of the general public. Dr. Duffin invoked Clio, the ancient Greek muse of history in her anthology of essays by physicians who apply history in their clinical work. In a sense, Dr. Duffin has served that role herself in the medicine of our time.

Picture of Jacalyn Duffin


  • Volunteer contact tracer for Kington Frontenac Lennox and Addington Public Health

    Public Health, Health Promotion & Advocacy

  • Professor for Inaugural international course in medical history and Keynote speaker for the International Society for the History of Medicine, Riga Latvia

  • Jacalyn Duffin at podium at 2019 Induction Ceremony

    Jacalyn Duffin inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Montreal, Quebec

  • Health and Humanities Conference

    Queen’s medical students launch the Jacalyn Duffin Health and Humanities Conference

    Health & Humanities

    The conference aims to create a space where learners and educators of all disciplines can discuss the intersections of health, medicine, and the arts and humanities.

  • The Dr. Jacalyn Duffin Award for Advocacy was created by Dr. Duffin's former students at Queen’s University

  • Initiated by Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, the Canada Drug Shortage website was launched

    Public Health, Health Promotion & Advocacy

  • 2004 SARS Symposium

    Scholars gathered at Queen’s University in February to reflect on SARS from a scientific, historical, economic and policy perspective

    The meeting culminated in SARS in Context (2006), edited by Jacalyn Duffin and Arthur Sweetman.

  • President of the American Association for the History of Medicine

  • Dr. Duffin was awarded the Jason A. Hannah Medal of the Royal Society of Canada for her biography of R. T. H Laennec

    She was awarded the medal again in 2009 for her book Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints and Healing in the Modern World

  • The first edition of Dr. Jacalyn Duffin's publication, History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction, is published.

    Health & Humanities

    It remains an internationally renowned textbook.

  • President of the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine

  • Dr. Duffin meets Pope John Paul II

    Jacalyn Duffin meets Pope John Paul II at the Canonization of Marie Marguerite d’Youville

    Father Constantin Bouchaud and fellow hematologist Dr Jeanne Drouin accompanied Dr. Duffin at the Vatican.

  • An action shot of a historian

    Dr. Jacalyn Duffin became the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine at Queen’s University

    Health and Medical Education & Training, Women in Medicine

    Dr. Duffin remained in this position until 2017.

  • Dr. Jacalyn Duffin’s blind reading of a set of bone marrow samples came to be used in the canonization process of Canada’s first saint, Marie-Marguerite d’Youville

    This experience led Dr. Duffin to produce her books "Medical Miracles" and "Medical Saints."


I know no one who has the ability to inspire students better than Jackie Duffin.