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In memoriam
February 26, 2021

Dr. James Ronald Douglas Bayne

James Ronald Douglas Bayne

Ronald Bayne, MD, FRCP, passed away on Feb. 26, 2021. He was born in Sherbrooke, Que., on Jan. 25, 1923.

He followed in his father’s footsteps, studying medicine at McGill. While a medical student, Ronald contracted tuberculosis, one of many deadly communicable diseases prevalent at the time and for which there was no reliable cure. After many months “taking the air” in the sanatorium at Ste. Agathe, Ronald was offered a trial of streptomycin, only then being tested as a possible treatment, and managed to survive to continue his medical education.

Over the course of his medical rotations, Ronald was struck by the failure of the system to address the needs of people with chronic illnesses. At the time, this included a large population of mental patients who, before the advent of psychotropic drugs, were “warehoused” in facilities without the prospect of any real treatment or even attention. He was particularly taken by the inadequacies of care of the elderly, many of whom languished, largely unattended to, in chronic care facilities for many years until they died. He resolved to learn more and to do something to improve care of the elderly and, in 1951, travelled to Britain to work with Dr. Marjory Warren.

Ronald met his wife, Barbara Sheard, at the West Middlesex Hospital where they both worked, he as a resident and she as a medical social worker. They were married in 1954 and spent their honeymoon on a study tour of care of the aged in Scandinavia.

He returned to Canada and, after a brief period of family practice in rural Quebec, took the post of chief of medicine at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital at Ste. Anne de Bellevue, with an academic post at McGill in the Department of Psychiatry in acknowledgement of his work with dementia patients and veterans with substance-use disorders.

In 1970, Ronald was invited to join the new medical school at McMaster University, with a post as vice-president medicine at St. Peter’s Hospital. In 1979, in collaboration with Professor Karl Kinanen, he established the Centre for Gerontological Studies, now part of Health Studies as the Department of Health, Aging and Society. Designed to foster interdisciplinary research and education in aging across the university, the centre developed the first degree program in Canada in gerontology.

Ronald maintained a keen interest in research and, with colleagues, established the Gerontology Research Council of Ontario (GRCO) in the mid-1970s. He was active with the Canadian Association of Gerontology (president, 1983-1987), the National Advisory Council on Aging, and the Canadian Coalition of National Organizations with Interest in Medication Use and Elderly Persons, and was awarded lifetime membership in the Ontario Medical Association in 1990.

He retired in 1986 but remained active as a professor emeritus, attending research rounds and assisting in teaching. He continued to advocate for improved care of the elderly, to write and publish.

Ronald was a generous donor to many causes and groups, including McMaster University, the Hamilton Foundation, the Hamilton Naturalists Club, and the Victoria-based Children’s Health Foundation.

Ronald has been honoured with several awards in his name, including by the Ontario Gerontology Association, which established the Bayne-Galloway Annual Research Lectureship in Gerontology; and by McMaster University with the Bayne Annual Gerontology Internship, and the Ronald Bayne Lecture in Geriatrics. He was a awarded an Honorary Degree from McMaster in 2006.

Ronald moved to Victoria, B.C., in June 2019. He chose a medically assisted death at his home on Feb. 26, 2021. He leaves his four daughters, five grandchildren, and their partners: Jennifer Bayne; Lillian Bayne and Michael Hayes, Eliot Bayne and Jennifer Sanchez, Oliver Bayne; Jessica Bayne and Richard MacDonald, Andrew Jack and Baila Abramson, Derek Jack, Madelaine Jack and Michael Lewczuk; and Sarah Bayne; as well as a great many loving family members, friends and colleagues.

Ronald’s last gift to the world was a short video, which he hoped would help others in addressing the fears of aging and death. Watch the video