Memorable Manitobans: David Alexander Stewart (1874-1937)
Born at Fletcher, Kent County, Ontario on 15 February 1874, the eldest son of Francis Beattie Stewart and Elizabeth Farquharson who left Aberdeenshire in the UK, and settled in Ontario until 1891 when they moved to Morden, Manitoba. He was educated at the Chatham Collegiate, Manitoba College, and the University of Manitoba (BA 1899, MD 1906). After graduation from Arts, and two preliminary years in Theology at Manitoba College, the young Stewart spent his summer at the mission in Frank, Alberta. Here, he met and befriended Dr. George Malcolmson, who had recently opened a small hospital beside his home. As a result of his summer with Malcolmson, Stewart opted for a change in vocation.
Returning again to Manitoba in the Fall, Stewart resumed study not in Theology, but in Medicine. To support his medical studies, Stewart became a reporter for the Manitoba Free Press. After graduation (MD 1906), he spent two years as a resident physician at the Winnipeg General Hospital and at hospitals in New York City. After attending the World Tuberculosis Congress in Washington in 1908, and completing an assistantship in a Connecticut sanatorium, he returned to Manitoba in 1909 to organize, plan and arrange for the building of the Manitoba Sanitarium at Ninette, on the shore of Pelican Lake, located 160 miles southwest of Winnipeg. He became its first Superintendent. The sanitorium grew from 65 beds to 300 beds under his leadership. Stewart’s dedication to his cause, applied through travel and lectures for raising funds, made him a target for the very disease he was trying to fight. For a short time, Dr. Stewart became a patient himself, at the Trudeau Sanatorium at Saranac Lake, New York.
He returned once again to Manitoba, as Superintendent of the Ninette Sanatorium, which was now built but suffered under a lack of leadership. For the next three decades, until his death in 1937, Stewart was responsible for the success of the facility, as well as other anti-TB measures in Manitoba. His career at Ninette saw the TB rate fall to one fifth its previous level.
On 2 June 1915, he married Ida K. Bradshaw, with whom he had one son, David B. Stewart. While engaged in his medical career, Stewart maintained a life-long interest in natural science and history, so it was only natural that he was involved with the Manitoba Historical Society. From 1929 to 1934, he served as Society President. In 1927, he was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba.
Stewart served as President of the Manitoba Medical Association, and was Chairman of the Committee on Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association, for whom he wrote a completely new Code of Ethics, published after his death. A memorial plaque were erected at the Ninette Sanatorium as a testimonial to a distinguished medical career and a man instrumental in the fight against TB in Canada.
His papers are at the Archives of Manitoba.
His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:
This profile is based, in part, on information at www.lung.ca/tb/tbhistory/people/stewart.html.
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
This profile was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Profile revised: 11 June 2013
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