Ian Macnab

Scottish-origin Canadian orthopedic surgeon and scholar (1921-1992). In the spine area, Ian Macnab is well known for his researchs and publications on low back pain and the outcome instrument Macnab criteria. Ian Macnab made outstanding contributions as researcher, teacher, and orthopaedic surgeon.

Ian was the son of a Scottish shipbuilder who was living in India. When Ian was five years old, his parents sent him home to Britain to receive an education in an English boarding school. He attended medical school at the University of Birmingham, graduating with first class honors. After a residency in general and orthopaedic surgery, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, from 1445 to 1947. He then completed his orthopaedic training at Ihe Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London. He became interested in low back disability. With the recommendation of Sir Herbert Seddon, he went lo Toronto in 1950, to study the pathogenesis of low back pain, as a research fellow at the Banting Institute with Dr. R. I. Harris. He established a university orthopaedic service at the Toronto General Hospital. Ian Macnab acquired a passionate devotion and pride for his adopted country, for Toronto, and for its orthopaedic service. He was appointed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Toronto and Chief of the Orthopaedic service at the Wellesley Hospital.

His range of academic interests was wide. Although he was internationally renowned as a spine surgeon, his most famous contributions are probably his studies on the pathogenesis of low back pain. He also had expertise in the areas of hallux rigidus, patellar dislocation, opponens transfer, whiplash injuries, pathological changes in the neurocentral joints of the cervical spine, lesions of the menisci, anterior tibial compartment syndrome, the effect on osteogenesis of alternating currents in bone, blood supply of the vertebral bodies and the femoral head, the reaction of body tissues to ceramics, the microcirculation of the rotator cuff, and shoulder arthroplasty.

As a teacher Dr. Macnab was unsurpassed. To North Americans, his knowledge and expertise, combined with his command of the English language and his Churchilhan oratory, made him one of the most sought-after orthopaedic lecturers and visiting professors. In his classic 1977 Presidential Address "Seek and Ye Shall find" he stated "You do not have to be a trained investigator lo discover. You must, however, preserve your sense of wonder, your ability to be astonished and you must be sure that your brain remains connected to your retina so that you will not only see, but you will also perceive... Research is just not a laboratory activity. More importantly, it is an attitude of mind. Every surgeon must recognize his own potential in this regard and not be content to Ieave advances to others. Seek and ye shall find".

Ian MacNab  Ian MacNab

JBSJ. Vol 75A, No 9, Sep 1993.

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