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Dr. David James Lewis was born in Montreal, Quebec on 28 May 1920. He received his early education at Selwyn House School in Montreal and later at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario. Dr. Lewis then attended McGill University, graduating on 29 May 1941 with a Bachelors of Arts “First Class Honors in Language and Literature.”
While at McGill, Dr. Lewis’ had worked during the summers at the Ottawa Journal; upon graduation he was offered full time employment there and manned the Sports Desk and later the Police and Fire beat. Dr. Lewis left the Journal in March 1941 upon appointment to the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve as a probationary Sub-Lieutenant. He saw service at Dieppe, the invasions of Normandy, North Africa and Sicily. He was discharged from service On 29 July 1945 as Lieutenant RCNVR.
Following his service in the Navy, Dr. Lewis enrolled at the University of Toronto and received his Medical Doctor degree in 1950. He completed his junior internship at the Toronto General Hospital and his senior internship at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. In 1952-1954 he was a Junior and Assistant Resident in Psychiatry, and later an Instructor in Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. At the end of his rotation there, Dr. Lewis worked at Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals in London, England supported by a R. Samuel McLaughlin Travelling Fellowship. It was during his stint in London that Dr. Lewis became involved in his two first major research projects – the efficacy of the Funkenstein tests (the reliability of adrenaline and mecholyl injections) and drug assisted therapy using Lysergic Acid Diethylamide or LSD.
Upon his return to Canada, Dr. Lewis was employed as Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at the University of Toronto (1956-1958) and was eventually promoted to Associate Professor and Clinical Teacher (Medicine) (1958-1965). Dr. Lewis supervised and trained interns and residents at St. Michael’s Hospital as part of his appointments.
In 1965 he moved to Montreal as Associate Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University and Associate Psychiatrist at the Royal Victoria Hospital. His involvement in undergraduate teaching included service on the Permanent Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Medical Education and as Chairman on the Subcommittee on Multiple Paths to the M.D. Degree. He was also very active in furthering graduate education with service as the Coordinator of Postgraduate Education and on the Committee on Revision of the Postgraduate Medical Curriculum. Dr. Lewis did extensive work on his research into Lilliputian Studies, or Little Men hallucinations during his appointments in Toronto and Montreal.
While at McGill, Dr. Lewis was also the Clinical Director of the Allan Memorial Institute (1966-1971), a psychiatric hospital allied with both the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Psychiatric Department at McGill University. During Lewis’ tenure there he served under Dr. Robert Cleghorn, himself a protégé of the first Director of the Allan Memorial Institute, Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron who died in 1967. Dr. Cameron’s practices with psychiatric patients would later come under federal investigation in the 1980s. Dr. Lewis retained contact with Dr. Cleghorn until his death in 1995; Lewis’ involvement with both Cleghorn and Cameron would inform some of his later research interests.
In 1971 Dr. Lewis accepted an appointment as Clinical Director, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Calgary. He remained involved in undergraduate teaching as a Subcommittee member and teacher of the Continuity Course and as Precepter of Clinical Clerkship with responsibilities for units on alcoholism, suicide, and death and dying. Dr. Lewis was also involved in teaching the Growth and Development courses. He was twice acting head of the Department of Psychiatry in 1975-1976 and 1979-1981.
Dr. Lewis spent his 1977-1978 sabbatical researching the administration of, and patient treatment in affective disorder wards or clinics in Europe and New York. His advocacy for the creation of an Affective Disorders Clinic at the University of Calgary was successful and Dr. Lewis became the Director of the newly formed clinic from 1978 through 1985. Several of his major research projects were a result of his involvement in the clinic, or by-products of his research there: affective disorders, therapeutic communities, milieu therapy, lithium studies and psycho-immune studies.
Dr. Lewis retired as Professor Emeritus from the University of Calgary in 1985 but remained closely involved with teaching and the practice of psychiatry. He remained a part-time Clinical Professor of Psychiatry from 1985-1987 and a Senior Psychiatrist until 1991.
From 1992-1998 Dr. Lewis and his wife Catherine and Len Birkins compiled and edited the reminiscences of fellow WWII veterans of the Combined Operations of the Royal Canadian Navy resulting in the two volumes book “From St.Naziere to Singapore: the Canadian Amphibious War 1941-1945”. During the same period, Dr. Lewis also investigated the history of psychiatric treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, also called ‘battle fatigue’, giving particular attention to Canadian psychiatrist Arthur Doyle’s work on the subject during WWII in Italy. In his retirement, Dr. Lewis remained an active participant in veterans activities relating to the navy through reunions, commemorative events, interviews in newspapers and articles and exhibits in the Tecumseh Naval Museum and the Military Museums in Calgary. He died on 1 January 2013.