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Local News: Dr. Douglas Salmon, 81: Surgeon, scholar Black Habits Articles Dr. Douglas Salmon known for his courage, humility, compassion.

Fought for the rights of blacks to see jazz greats at Palais Royale.

Dr. John Douglas Graham Roy Salmon was a kind and wonderful person who had to struggle for everything he achieved, his family and friends say.

Salmon, who died last Wednesday at age 81, wasn't only the first black surgeon in Canada. He was an accomplished pianist, scholar, athlete and sculptor as well.

"From the moment I met him, I knew he was a person I could truly respect, and I never varied from thinking that way," Beverley (Bev) Salmon, his wife and former Metro Toronto and North York councillor said of her partner for 49 years.

"He was always warm and loving to all the family. He had a way of reaching out to people ... he was loved by patients and colleagues alike. He was truly a role model and inspiration."

His lifelong friend, lawyer Leonard Braithwaite, Canada's first black MPP, called Salmon "kind and capable.

"This great land of ours is better because of him," Braithwaite said of the man he grew up with near Kensington Market.

Braithwaite said that in those days, before World War II, black families were few and far between in Toronto.

Salmon's life was a story of triumph over adversity.

Born Dec. 13, 1923, in Toronto to Jamaican immigrants Eugenie, a Black Cross (the Marcus Garvey-originated medical corps) nurse, and Robert, a veteran of the Boer War, Douglas was the youngest of six children.

They became orphaned during the Great Depression when Douglas was 6. Their mother's sister, Margaret Brown (Aunt Mag), a childless widow in her 50s, stepped in to raise them.

Salmon was independent and strong-willed even as a child. His late sister, Stevella, used to recall that even from a very young age, her baby brother was always insistent that "I'm going to be a docta!"

Young Douglas Salmon would let nothing stand in his way, according to the family history.

Always resourceful and self-motivated he would go around the neighbourhood and light furnaces for a penny, as well as work three paper routes so he, too, could contribute to the family.

In the 1940s, "Doug Salmon & his Orchestra" entertained at dances, parties and lodges in and around Toronto.

Not escaping the realities of racism of the day, Salmon became a protest leader on the Race Discrimination Committee (1942), which battled for the rights of blacks to enter Toronto's Palais Royale to see jazz greats such as Duke Ellington.

The protest came after he and a group of friends were denied admission to the Palais Royale to hear Earl "Fatha" Hines play piano.

In a 1992 interview with the Star, Salmon said while Canada didn't have segregation in those days, blacks did find themselves shut out of places. "You didn't see blacks as salespersons. As far as education was concerned, you saw few blacks introduced to university."

In 1951, he obtained his honours degree in physiology and biochemistry from the University of Toronto, and in 1955, his medical degree, graduating president of his second medical year.

Salmon received scholarships from the American Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation and interned at Toronto Western Hospital.

In 1954, his sister Bea introduced him to Beverley Bell, a young Victorian Order nurse. They were married in 1956 and immediately moved to Detroit.

Although he was offered a thriving practice in Detroit, the couple chose to return to Toronto and started a family. They had four children: J. Douglas Jr., Warren (of First Fridays in Toronto), Heather and Leslie.

In 1967, Salmon joined Scarborough Centenary Hospital's general surgical staff. He was the busiest general surgeon there for many years, which his colleagues attributed to not only his superior skills and training, but also his work ethic, conscientious patient care, disciplined lifestyle and great personality.

Salmon was known for his courage, humility and compassion, as he became one of the first surgeons in Canada to treat the morbidly obese with breakthrough gastric bypass surgery.

Salmon became president of Centenary's medical staff and was later appointed chief of general surgery, the first black person in Canada to hold such positions.

After retiring from Centenary Hospital in 1995, he joined the Rudd Clinic in downtown Toronto. He retired from practice in 1997.

Salmon was a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

In recognition of his outstanding stature and service to the community, he was awarded the Canadian Black Achievement Award, Medicine.

In tribute to their beloved husband and father, his family has established the Dr. John Douglas Graham Salmon Award for Black Medical Students, administered through the University of Toronto's faculty of medicine.

Donations to the award may be made c/o The Medical Science Building, Room 2306, 1 Kings College Circle, Toronto, M5S 1A8, or call Ingrid Graham, 416-946-7681.

A funeral was held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday September 28, 2005 at St. John's York Mills Anglican Church, 19 Don Ridge, North York, with a reception following at the church. The interment was private.

Posted on Wednesday, September 28 @ 17:32:03 UTC by bspringer

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