DR. GORDON BELL
Manitoba's Titan of Medicine
By George Siamandas
© George Siamandas
Dr Gordon Bell was Winnipeg's first bacteriologist. He was born in Pembroke Ontario in 1863. He received an MA from the University of Toronto and then came to Manitoba Medical College where he graduated as a brilliant student in 1890. He took postgraduate work in Vienna. He was noted for having a photographic memory. Bell faced an early personal tragedy. He contracted typhoid fever and had to have a leg amputated. It barely affected his active lifestyle and Bell was a noted outdoorsman as well as a colossus of medicine.
PHYSICIAN, TEACHER, BACTERIOLOGIST AND
BUILDER OF MANITOBA'S PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES
Bell became the first superintendent of the Brandon Mental Hospital. In 1897 he was appointed the Manitoba's first bacteriologist and for years did all the work himself, founding the Provincial Bacteriological Laboratory.
Decades ahead of his time, Bell suggested the initiation of North America's first public health nursing program, and introduced measures to control venereal diseases. Bell faced various epidemics including small pox, diphtheria, salmonella, polluted water and milk.
Bell was also a highly regarded teacher at the Medical College, and an inspiration to his students. During the turn of the century Bell was virtually Manitoba's one man public health officer. He established the tuberculosis sanatorium in Ninette and devised the public health act.
Bell was also available on Sundays to doctors who came to his office for consultations on medical problems they were facing. Bell 's wife referred to the group the "fugitives from a church pew" and "the ungodly ones."
BELL THE ROUNDED MAN
He was cheerful, cultured, and humble. He loved gardening. He valued books and music more than anything else. He was never driven by money and was always helping someone. He built a shooting lodge on the marshes of Lake Manitoba and had a cottage at Fox Lake. He won the trap skeet shooting competition of Manitoba.
THE MYSTERY OF GORDON BELL SCHOOL
Gordon Bell School was named after him Nov 12, 1926. Its location was that of the present Mulvey School at Maryland and Wolseley. In 1960 the name Gordon Bell was transferred to the newly built high school located at Maryland and Broadway Ave.
AN EARLY DEATH
Bell died in the prime of life on Aug 8, 1923. He had been called to Brandon in the summer of 1923 to consult on several virulent cases of a streptococcal sore throat infection. Bell caught the disease and died in 48 hours. His death at age 60 was a tragic loss and he was mourned as "Winnipeg's most loved doctor." Bell was buried at Elmwood cemetery.
SON IN HIS FOOTSTEPS
His son Dr Lennox Bell was one of the founders of the Winnipeg Clinic and the first full time Dean of Medicine.