New plaque honours Dr. Halperin for a lifetime of achievements

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New plaque honours Dr. Halperin for a lifetime of achievements

Toronto, March 12, 2018

By James Wysotski

Dr. Mitchell Halperin beside his honorary plaque
Dr. Mitchell Halperin beside his honorary plaque. (Photo by Katie Cooper)

Dr. Mitchell Halperin, one of Canada's leading renal physiologists and an internationally recognized educator, was honoured by St. Michael’s Hospital at a plaque-dedication ceremony on March 12 for contributions during 50 years of service that were seminal to the development of the hospital’s Division of Nephrology.

“Mitch has been the backbone of the Division of Nephrology at St. Michael's Hospital,” said Dr. Jeff Zaltzman, head of the Division of Nephrology. “When he was recruited to St. Michael's 50 years ago, the Division of Nephrology actually did not exist. Mitch, along with some of his earlier colleagues, helped establish the division and ever since that time he has been a key player there and at the University of Toronto.”

After getting his medical degree at McGill University in 1962, Dr. Halperin completed a research fellowship at Boston University and a second fellowship in biochemistry at England’s University of Bristol. He said he joined St. Michael’s Hospital in 1968 because he was told he could focus on his passions, research and teaching, without having to do clinical care.

Over the years, he had many roles, including the head of the Division of Nephrology from 1998 to 2003. But Dr. Zaltzman said it was the relentless pursuit of science and the understanding of renal physiology that set him apart, as is evidenced by the large volume of publications he co-authored, including 362 peer-reviewed papers, 343 abstracts, 59 book chapters and 11 textbooks.

“Mitch is one of the most critical thinkers in terms of acid-base and electrolyte physiology in the world,” said Dr. Zaltzman. “He continues to strive to better understand and always question the prevailing dogma.”

The new plaque recognizes these contributions.

"I'm grateful to be receiving this honour because St. Michael's is my other family," said Dr. Halperin. “Without my wife Brenda, I could never have achieved this much. Her absolute support has been my inspiration and driving force. She could see the enjoyment my research gave me, and knew how to keep me striving forward.”

Dr. Mitchell Halperin's honorary plaque
Dr. Halperin's honorary plaque. See a larger version of this image. (Photo by Katie Cooper)

Dr. Halperin has honorary medical degrees from both the Universite de Montreal (1998) and France’s Universite Clerment-Ferand, d’Auvergne (2008). He was also made a lifetime honorary member of the Royal Society of Canada (2002) and the Societies of Nephrology in Australia/New Zealand (2003) and South Africa (2005). He said the award he’s most proud of is the American Society of Nephrology’s Robert G. Narins Award for teaching excellence he received in 2008.

Dr. Halperin continues to be invited as a lecturer, both nationally and internationally, and still teaches biochemistry and renal physiology to students on a regular basis. Throughout his career, he has had more than 300 invited lectures and-or visiting professorships. He has mentored and taught many leading clinicians and scientists throughout the world, including many who are now his colleagues at St. Michael’s, including nephrologist Dr. Kamel Kamel.

“Mitch has an amazing ability to engage his audience in an intellectual exercise, develop with them the required concepts to address the issues discussed from basic principles, make them arrive at the conclusions on their own, and then have an “Aha, I already knew this” moment,” said Dr. Kamel.

Dr. Halperin said he started teaching Dr. Kamel, “but soon he was teaching me.” He said this manner of two-way teaching plus all of his research collaborations provided him with as much inspiration as he knows he provided others. It also provided him with his legacy.

“My legacy will be the all of the people I've taught, whether they were fellows of mine or I had exposure to them during their clinical training,” said Dr. Halperin. “Many are now my colleagues and they will continue to pass along this expertise, as well as advance the field of nephrology.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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