Newell W. Philpott

Newell W. Philpott


Newell Willard Philpott was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and died in Montreal, Quebec, on December 30, 1999. He was 97 years old. Newlie Philpott was an outstanding athlete. He played intercollegiate football for McGill University for 6 years and was captain of the team the year he graduated, 1926. At the end of the year, his fellow students said of him, "What a student, what a player, what a man, just as much at home in the hospital as he is on the gridiron." Those were the days when true amateurs dominated sports. This was only a few years after a team from the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association had won the Stanley Cup. Dr. Philpott also distinguished himself in basketball, baseball, and tennis, and was vice president of the student body in 1926.

Newell Philpott took his post-graduate training at McGill, the University of Michigan (Pathology), Edinburgh, Kiel, and Berlin. He joined the staff of the Royal Victoria Hospital and McGill University in 1930 as an assistant demonstrator in obstetrics and gynecology. As a junior staffperson, he published widely in renowned journals such as the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the New England Journal of Medicine, and Annals of Internal Medicine on endocarditis, obstetrical morbidity, and congenital defects in newborns.

Dr. Philpott joined the navy in 1941 as surgeon lieutenant-commander but was recalled to take charge of the maternity pavilion at the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1943. He became professor and head of obstetrics and gynecology in 1946.

He was an optimistic problem solver, pragmatic, and effective as a clinician and planner. He organized a hematology unit devoted to the study and treatment of erythroblastosis fetalis and the anemias of pregnancy. During his tenure, the infant mortality rate decreased from 0.33% to 0.03%, and the maternal morbidity rate (postpartum fever) decreased from 19.7% to 6.4%. These results attracted many distinguished visitors to the clinic. Harry Oxorn, an admiring student, resident, colleague, and friend of Newell Philpott described Dr Philpott as one of McGill's most illustrious graduates. "Not only was Newlie an outstanding teacher, but he was a born leader and organizer, with an overpowering personality, who had the reputation of getting things done. He possessed enormous charisma, a magnetism that drew people to him and made them want to follow his lead and to listen attentively to what he had to say. And he always had a lot to say." Dr Philpott was the first full-time appointee at McGill in obstetrics and gynecology, an arrangement he requested to devote time to teaching and research, with an implied limit on private practice. During his tenure, the department was ranked among the world's best for efficiency, safety, and progress.

Obstetrics and gynecology became a single department at McGill University in 1912, and Walter W. Chipman was the first head of the department. He represented the ideal pattern of training, practice, and acceptance in the community that attracted Dr. Frankin Martin, founder of the American College of Surgeons. The example of Dr. Chipman was an important reason that Canadians were included as equal partners in the formation of that College. Newell Philpott followed in Dr. Chipman's footsteps. He was the third president of the American College of Surgeons from the staff of the Royal Victoria Hospital; he served from 1958 to 1959. Dr. Philpott emphasized in his presidential address that "a fellowship is a companionship of colleagues drawn together, bound together, and sharing together a love and admiration of their life's work."

Newell Philpott received many honors. He was elected president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada in 1950 and was appointed Fellow, Royal Society of Medicine, London, England in 1958. He received the Honorary M.D. from Laval University in 1952. He was vice president (surgery) of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1953, and received an honorary fellowship, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1959.

After serving for more than 10 years as the head of obstetrics and gynecology at McGill, Newlie Philpott returned to full-time practice in 1956, was named emeritus professor in 1957, and retired in 1969.

Submitted by Robert A. H. Kinch, MB, BS, FAGOC

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