Dr Frederick Edward Bryans 1924–2009

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 51, No. 5, June 2009, page(s) 212 Obituaries
Basil Ho Yuen, MBChB, Peter McComb, MBBS

Dr Fred Bryans died on 11 March 2009.

Fred received his formal medical education at the University of Toronto (MD 1946, followed by residency training in obstetrics and gynecology), Harvard University (graduate research), and at leading cancer treatment centres in Europe.

Dr Bryans spent his professional career as a geographic full-time faculty member in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of British Columbia. In 1954, at the age of 30, he was appointed assistant professor. In 1960, at the youthful age of 36, he became professor and chairman of the department, a post in which he served with distinction until 1978. During his 18 years as department head, he laid the foundation and prepared the department for its future development. Fred related well to a wide range of very different people. He appointed faculty from strikingly different backgrounds and was supportive and appreciative of their diversity. Fred fostered a unique, supportive environment within the department with a friendly and collegial atmosphere among faculty, train­ees, and supporting staff members. There was a surprising lack of hierarchy, which made going to work truly a pleasure. Education and research endeavors were supremely important and valued. He retired from his university position in 1989 but remained active in departmental and university affairs until shortly before his death.

Fred received many important awards and had numerous accomplishments during his distinguished career as teacher, academic, and practising obstetrician and gynecologist. Graduating classes of the UBC Medical School honored him with Best Educator awards. Dr Bryans was also a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal.

His publications included scholarly works on endocrinology, cancer, congenital abnormalities, urinary in­con­­tinence, and other areas. His most recent work was started in 2004 at the age of 80 when he began the daunting task of writing the book documenting the history of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and some aspects of the specialty in the early days of the University of British Columbia Medical School, published in 2005. This book is yet another of Fred’s many gifts to the department.

Dr Bryans remained the accomplished generalist who excelled in the practical as well as academic aspects of our specialty. As trainees we were impressed with his management of challenging obstetrical and surgical cases referred to the professor by colleagues from all areas of the province—truly a testament to his stature as clinician, obstetrician, and the gifted surgeon that he was. Through his role as an outstanding educator and planner as well as a distinguished and accomplished physician, he contributed significantly to the care of the women of British Columbia in a career spanning two generations.

At the national and international levels, Fred served on the council and committees of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, he was a founding member and president of the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Canada (APOG), vice president of the Association of Professors of Gynaecology and Obstetrics in the United States (APGO-USA), vice president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gy­nae­cologists of Canada (SOGC), and fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (UK).

Fred always had the interest of his department, students, trainees, colleagues, and patients foremost. He was a man of modesty and the highest integrity. In addition to all his many qualities, we learned and benefited from his wisdom, common sense, good judgment, sense of ethics, fairness, and generosity.

Fred married Jane in 1975. They shared a loving, joyful, fulfilling life with a mutual devotion to the outdoors, hiking in the mountains and backcountry. Throughout his terminal illness, Jane was a stalwart and devoted companion who helped, nursed, and supported him.

If there is a single acclaimed and enduring attribute of Fred Bryans, it is that he was the ultimate gentleman and scholar who led by example. He left these legacies to his trainees, colleagues, and family who have been so fortunate to have known him and to have been influenced by him.

—Basil Ho Yuen, MBChB
—Peter McComb, MBBS