Profile of achievement: The Lancet carves out space for Dal’s Dr. Noni MacDonald

- August 27, 2020

Dr. Noni MacDonald, recently profiled in The Lancet. (Provided photo)
Dr. Noni MacDonald, recently profiled in The Lancet. (Provided photo)

When one of the world’s most well-regarded medical journals writes a profile article about you, it’s a big deal.

In fact, The Lancet’s “Perspectives” section only occasionally profiles individuals at all — making Dr. Noni MacDonald’s inclusion in the journal’s latest issue all the more significant.

Dr. MacDonald, a renowned global health advocate and researcher who is past dean of Dalhousie Medical School, is profiled is the latest issue of The Lancet (August 22) as an “inspirational leader in Canadian and global health.”

“When they contacted me to do this, I was gobsmacked,” says an appreciative Dr. MacDonald. “It blew me away.

“It’s very affirming that my peers [at The Lancet] decided I was worthy of something like this. That’s quite amazing. The people they do profile, I’ve never seen myself even in that league.”

The Lancet article offers a concise argument for why Dr. MacDonald belongs in such company. She was the first pediatrician to be certified in pediatric infectious diseases in Canada, and the country’s first female dean of medicine. She’s made significant advancements working with cystic fibrosis patients and on the front-lines of infectious diseases like HIV. Her emphasis on social accountability in medical education was ahead of the curve; now, it’s an accreditation standard.

A continuing journey to make a difference

Though Dr. MacDonald wound down her clinical practice four years ago, her work continues. In fact, her recent projects illuminate the dual perspective that’s driven her entire career.

“I do work on a very high level for policy, and then I do work way down in the trenches — research at the community/health-care professional interface,” she explains.

Working with the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization, she’s been part of developing the strategy that will serve as the foundation for the next decade of global vaccination work. Then, at a micro level (literally), there’s Microresearch, the non-profit organization she helped establish more than a decade ago to train local health researchers in sub-Saharan Africa.

“My professional life has all been about confronting health problems,” she told interviewer Richard Lane. “In my view, if you don’t do something to stop the problem, you end up being part of the problem.”

The Lancet profile is one of many recent accolades Dr. MacDonald has earned. She was named to the Order of Nova Scotia last fall and to the Order of Canada earlier this year. She received the Canadian Institute of Child Health's National Child Day Award in 2017, and in 2018 the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health presented her with its Trailblazer Award.

You can read the full profile of Dr. MacDonald at The Lancet’s website.


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