The province has lost a true pioneer

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It’s been more than six weeks now since the family and friends of Dr. Charles Henderson bid him a fond farewell.

He died on June 10 at the age of 91, leaving behind a tremendous legacy that we would like to share with Telegram readers.

As the father of modern pediatric anesthesia in this province, he touched many lives with his work.

He was chief of anesthesia at the Janeway from its opening in 1966 until he retired in 1989.

He joined Memorial University’s medical faculty in 1973 and eventually became professor and chair of the department. In 1995, after he retired, he was named professor emeritus.

Educated at Bishop Feild College in St. John’s, he excelled as a scholar and athlete and seemed bound for an auspicious career.

He studied pre-medicine at Memorial University College and graduated from Dalhousie Medical School in 1945.

As a student, and for a short time after graduation, he was an officer in the Canadian Army.

After several years in general practice and anesthesia in Corner Brook, he did a two-year, post-graduate program at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax before returning to St. John’s in 1955, where he practised anesthesia until he retired.

Dr. Henderson took excellent care of his patients and was up to date with the many progressive changes that occurred in his field.

Above all else, he was a compassionate man who treated his patients with diligence, respect and kindness.

He was especially interested in pediatric anesthesia and was highly sought after for complicated cases long before the Janeway Children’s Hospital opened.

Later, as department chief, he recruited skilled anesthetists and well-trained nurses for the Janeway. He was also influential at MUN and many of his students went on to become distinguished anesthetists.

He had firm views about clinical and academic matters, but even when he disagreed with his colleagues, he treated everyone with respect.

As one senior pediatrician said recently, “He had strong opinions but was usually right.”

Dr. Henderson was active as a physician.

He was a past-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and represented the province on the Medical Council of Canada.

He had a particular interest in preventing and dealing with substance abuse in physicians.

He was also strong and uncompromising in his religious beliefs, and served as an elder at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (The Kirk) for many years.

Dr. Henderson was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Two of his three children became physicians.

He took full advantage of the challenges that life and his career brought him, modernizing pediatric anesthesia and providing the best of care to his patients.

Simply put, he was a pioneer, and a true gentleman to everyone he met.

We miss him.

A.R. Cooper, A.J. Davis and Chuck Hobeika

St. John’s

Organizations: Bishop Feild College, University College, Dalhousie Medical School Canadian Army.After Victoria General Hospital Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association Medical Council of Canada Presbyterian Church

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Halifax, Janeway Children

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Recent comments

  • Survivor
    July 31, 2014 - 13:14

    In the mid 1950's when I was two weeks old GI complications of unknown cause presented. At that time there was minimal dignostic equipment and much of the surgical devices were designed for adults or much older children. The decision was made to operate to determine what exactly was the problem which was by then critical. Dr. Henderson was the anethesiest. In1950's Nfld. even monitoring electrolyte was a challenge for a patient so small with a situation so urgent! Later I was told that the lab tests for Na+ and K+ took much longer to complete back then, so the all Nfld. Team improvised by estimating electrolyte balance with the much faster Cl- test. No obvious condition was located except an apparent GI obstruction. The late Dr. Doug Baird did a duodenal bypass using a side to side anastomosis. Maybe routine today, but quite a challenge then. My family always spoke well of Dr. Henderson. I only met him once as an adult at the Kirk and he impressed me as an intelligent, patient and determined man who - very fortunately for me - was up to any medical challenge placed before him. My condolences to all his family and his congregation.It was so thoughtful for his colleagues to remember his passing so long after his retirement and the Telegram to publish this letter.