For almost 50 years, Charles Hunter, MBChB, was the foremost medical diagnostician in Western Canada, but his education and passion for clinical consulting originated across the pond in the United Kingdom. Born in Auchterless, Scotland in 1873, Hunter earned a Master of Arts degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1894 and his MBChB in 1899. He did post-graduate work in internal medicine in London and Berlin before ultimately emigrating to Winnipeg, Canada in 1904.
Hunter set up practice at Winnipeg General Hospital and a few years later was appointed to the faculty of medicine at the University of Manitoba. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, “Hunter was a profound scholar and possessed a remarkable diagnostic acumen. Many of his publications demonstrated his flair for original observations.”
In 1915 he examined two young brothers at Winnipeg General Hospital and observed a series of irregular physical characteristics that had never been recorded. His documented observations in “A Rare Disease in Two Brothers” published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1917.1 - His work led to the identification of the rare disease today known as Hunter Syndrome, a debilitating, ultimately fatal X-linked recessive disorder affecting mostly young boys that belongs to mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS) syndromes, a group of metabolic disorders.
During World War I, Hunter served in Europe as an army medical officer with the Royal Canadian Medical Corps. Leaving service in 1919 as a Lieutenant-Colonel, Hunter returned to Winnipeg to continue his role as expert clinical teacher and then associate professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba. He was promoted to the rank of full professor, but resigned a year later, preferring his teaching/clinical duties to the role’s more administrative tasks. He continued teaching until his retirement in 1933 and maintained a private consulting practice until a few years before his death in 1955.
Hunter was a lifetime member of the Manitoba’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as an early member of the Winnipeg Clinical Society, later known as the Winnipeg Medical Society. He was also honored as a fellow of London’s Royal College of Physicians.
Hunter’s expertise in difficult and obscure cases, which made him one of the most respected consultants in Western Canada in his day, has had a long-lasting and profound impact for boys diagnosed with the disorder that bears his name. The legacy he left behind has served as the foundation for continued innovations, active research and improved treatments this rare genetic disorder.