Late Dr. Dermot McLoughlin, a pioneer of radiology in the north
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Having served as a doctor for over 50 years, the late Dr. Diarmuid (Dermot) McLoughlin was an award winning, community-minded radiologist who helped pioneer radiology in the north.
From training as a doctor, to helping people with leprosy, raising a family, helping to modernize radiology in the area, as well as helping promote medical studies, with several recognitions to his name, Dr. McLoughlin is being remembered as a humble and selfless individual, who found satisfaction in helping those in need.
Deirdre McLoughlin shared about her late husband, “He was a wonderful man to be married to and a great parent of four boys. However, at times I personally needed a great deal of patience when he was in the midst of a project, involved with his work and the betterment of patient care in the hospital or in various communities (reserves). I admired his pioneering spirit, his faithfulness and perseverance.”
Dr. Marilyn Koval and Dr. Larry Willms, (wife and husband) physicians who work at Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC), shared, “Dr. Dermot McLoughlin: Hero. Mentor. Legend. On Christmas Day 2020, one of the legends of medical care in Sioux Lookout passed on. Dermot McLoughlin’s relationship to care in the north spanned several decades. He was the first and only radiologist to live in Sioux Lookout.” Dr. McLoughlin had been a Sioux Lookout resident for over 40 years, before passing away peacefully in his Sioux Lookout home.
Born on February 20, 1935, in Dublin, Dr. McLoughlin started his career as a doctor in Ireland and a radiologist in Scotland.
He moved to Africa in between, to fill the urgent requirement for a physician to serve over 7000 leprosy patients in the Abakaliki province in Nigeria. It was in Nigeria, where he got married to his long-time love Deirdre, also from Dublin. Dr. McLoughlin was recognized with the Pope John XXIII Medallion for his medical services to leprosy patients in Africa.
Deirdre shared that upon completion of his tour of duty in Nigeria, they had a short sojourn home in Ireland, later moving to Scotland to complete his graduation in Radiology from the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Dr. McLoughlin, along with his family, then moved to Canada to work as a staff radiologist at the Toronto General Hospital.
His foray to Canada in 1966 lasted much longer than the anticipated couple of years. Following his short service at the Toronto General Hospital, the family relocated to Barrie, where he started Georgian Radiology Consultants, serving hospitals in Barrie, Midland, Penetanguishene, and Collingwood.
The family moved back to Toronto in 1975, where Dr. McLoughlin worked for a year in tropical medicine at Toronto General. Subsequently, he also took the role as chief of radiology (1976 – 1993) in the Chedoke Division of Chedoke-McMaster Hospital in Hamilton.
Dr. McLoughlin was awarded with the John C. Sibley Award from McMaster University, in honour of his outstanding contribution to health sciences education and research.
Barry McLoughlin said about his father, “He valued what the traditional medicine people had to say, as much as any western doctor. He was very attentive to the Indigenous medicines, whether it was in north Ontario or Africa.”
McLoughlin said that his father was a workaholic. “He basically worked until he couldn’t work anymore. He loved what he was doing and he was a 12-hour a day kind of a worker. But he was also a great teacher. Interns, who are now doctors who I’ve run into, go on about their interactions with him. How much they enjoyed learning from him. He had this light in his eyes and was quite charming in his ways.”
From 1976 to 2015, Dr. McLoughlin worked extensively at the hospitals in Sioux Lookout (old Sioux Lookout General Hospital, old Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital, and current amalgamated Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre).
Beginning with weekly stints each month, Deirdre shared that he became a full-time SLMHC employee in 1993. He had also been regularly serving at Weeneebayko Hospital in Moose Factory for several years. Much of Dr. McLoughlin’s time and energy was dedicated to northern medicine.
A Radiologist at SLMHC, Dr. Neety Panu shared, “Dr. McLoughlin was an amazing individual who was so dedicated to all that he did.” She added, “Particular, his true passion was teaching, and his involvement in the creation and ultimately execution of the radiology program in the north is a testament to his dedication. He had so many varied and interesting experiences all around the world as a radiologist; I think it was such a unique way for him to close down his career at SLMHC. He saw the evolution of the department from the smallest scale and was still present when new modalities, expanding our department came on board.”
Dr. McLoughlin received the Chris Cromarty Award for Leadership in 2010 at SLMHC in honour of his effective teamwork, quality leadership and significant contributions to the wellbeing of the people of the Sioux Lookout region.
Dr. McLoughlin also visited many of the nursing stations throughout Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
Dr. McLoughlin, in consultation with Health Canada, with representatives from Treaty 9 and the chairman of radiology at Mohawk College, founded The Basic Radiological Technicians Program in the 1980’s. The program offered community-based training for First Nation people living in remote communities to perform basic x-ray examination of the upper and lower limbs, shoulder and chest in a safe, professional manner.
Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education and Training Institute in Thunder Bay currently manage the Radiological Technicians Program. For founding this program Dr. McLoughlin was recognized with an honorary doctorate at Lakehead University in 2013.
Medical Radiation Technologist at the SLMHC, DeAnna Lance shared, “He was an incredible man and is sorely missed. I had the pleasure of working with Dr. McLoughlin from 1999 until his retirement, and during that time he taught me so much in regards to our profession.” She added, “We worked together improving services and quality of care for our patients in Sioux Lookout and all of the North. His dedication, commitment, and bedside manners were second to none, and an inspiration to all who had the pleasure of working with him.”
Dr. McLoughlin became involved with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) in 2003 while working as a physician and a staff radiologist in Sioux Lookout.
He served as a teacher for over 14 years and continued his teaching with NOSM as an Associate Professor. He was an inaugural member of the NOSM Board of Directors and served from 2003 to 2011.
Senior Associate Dean and Special Advisor to the Dean at the Lakehead University campus of NOSM, Dr. William McCready said, “The fact that there was a trained expert radiologist available in Sioux Lookout was a huge bonus to the community. You’ve got to remember that modern technology, that’s x-ray specialist, read x-ray films virtually now. But that wasn’t true in those days. You had to be there just to actually look at the physical film. So, the fact that they had an expert like that available really made a big difference to the quality of care in Sioux Lookout.”
Dr. McLoughlin had shared with The Bulletin in 2013, what he would often tell graduating students, “I would recommend to all newly graduated health professionals, that you include at some time in your career working in remote areas or crisis situations in Canada or abroad where medical needs are the greatest.”
Deirdre shared that her late husband had a great sense of humour. “As he was a quiet person, sometimes, until you got to know him, one was not fully aware of this. He loved teaching medical students and lots of laughter was heard during his teaching sessions. Dermot was very encouraging. He believed that a little encouragement could go a long way.”
Chief of Staff at SLMHC, Dr. Barbara Russell-Mahoney, shared that Dr. McLoughlin supported learners and colleagues with excellent teaching and interpretation of many films, highlighting cases that were important for us to be aware of. She added, “He is a local legend and will be greatly missed.”
Deirdre shared that Dermot’s faith was also very important to him. He and Deirdre were the first lay associates of the Spiritans in Canada.
His commitment and engagement with many initiatives around peace and social justice were critical components of his life story and contributed to relocations along his career path.
“I was with Dermot on Christmas morning when he took his last breath,” Deirdre shared. “Initially he found it difficult to accept (a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease). But, little by little, he came to peace.” She is thankful to the staff at the William A. George Extended Care Facility in Sioux Lookout, who made his last four years so comfortable.