Maria Daria Haust

Medicine

Established paediatric pathology as a distinct subspecialty

M. Daria Haust obtained her primary and secondary education in Poland before WWII. She loved poetry and music and enjoyed languages and literature; however at school, she scored higher in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. But even her broad education could not have prepared her for the challenges that awaited her.

At the end of WWII, Daria sought admission to the medical school at the University of Heidelberg in Germany to “help the sick.” It was difficult to get admission: preference was given to the German men who returned from the war, and only a few seats were given to non-Germans. Daria was lucky to be admitted. To support herself while at school, Daria worked night-shifts and weekends at the local American hospital.

After earning her medical degree, Daria faced a dilemma. It was unreasonable to return to her homeland, annexed by another country, and it was impossible for a foreigner to practice medicine in Germany. She decided to emigrate to the USA.

However, one of her patients, a senior American officer, persuaded her to go to Canada. He explained that it would be easier for Daria to settle in Canada because Canadians were gentler and less competitive than Americans. Also Canada was affected by British culture. Inspired by his suggestion, Daria studied Canadian history, culture, social customs, and geography.

Another surprise for Daria was the marriage proposal from one of her colleagues from medical school. Heinz and Daria married and left together for Canada in January 1952.

They were suggested to go to Montréal because their French was better than English. Also they were told by the Canadian Consulate that “Canada needed physicians.” However, none of these suggestions helped: the couple was unprepared. They did not know anybody, they did not know how to start a medical practice in Canada, and the Employment Office was of little help.

As a last resort, they decided to open a telephone book and call the first physician whose name sounded either German or Polish. Luckily, they chose Dr. Joachim Brabander, a second-generation German-Canadian, who responded with great sympathy. He told them about the endless steps necessary for foreign graduates to start practicing medicine in Canada. Dr. Brabander also helped them find temporary employment. He advised them how to apply for the rotating internship and also explained the customs of the new country.

In June 1952, Daria started as a rotating intern in the Kingston General Hospital (KGH). To her surprise, she found that medicine in Canada was a man’s world: there was not a single female physician on the Faculty of Medicine at Queen’s University or among the KGH staff. In Germany on the contrary, women made 40 percent of medical students and 30 percent of practicing physicians.

When Daria completed her rotating internship, the timing wasn’t right to sit the final examination. She had two babies, born in 1953 and 1955, who needed her. In addition, her husband enrolled in the Queen’s University Graduate School. Thus, she stayed home happily taking care of her family and preparing herself for the qualifying examinations.

Daria was invited to do research at the Department of Pathology with Dr. Henry Movat under the sponsorship of Dr. Robert H. More. She started working part-time and then added hours at night after serving supper and putting her sons in bed.

At the end of the academic year, Dr Robert More offered her a full-time research position and enrollment in the Graduate School under his supervision. Dr. More saw that research was Daria’s future. However, no complete program of residency training in General Pathology existed at the KGH. Dr. More hoped to create it for Daria.

Daria did full-time research and course-work in 1956 – 57 and completed the residency training at the KGH in 1959. She spent the next 14 months as a post-doctoral fellow at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati where she studied paediatric pathology. The same year she passed the qualifying examinations in Anatomical and Clinical Pathology at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (RCFS) of Canada.

During her training Daria returned to clinical medicine: examining children and making ward rounds. She realized that is was not enough to practice paediatric pathology without knowledge of clinical paediatrics.

She returned to Kingston in 1960 and was appointed Assistant Professor in Pathology at Queen’s and Paediatric Pathologist at the KGH, thus becoming the first female on the Medical Faculty. She continued working with Dr. More, now a colleague not a supervisor.

Besides research, Daria was involved in teaching; she trained many post-doctoral and graduate students. She also lectured and was in charge of teaching content and assignments in later years. She developed and published a series of lectures in Paediatric Pathology. In 1965 she was promoted to Associate Professor in Pathology.

In 1967 Daria’s husband accepted a position in London, Ontario, and the family had to move. Daria wanted to settle down at first; however, she received an appointment at the Department of Pathology at the University of Western Ontario (UWO). Then, the Department of Pathology had little facilities for research. Daria felt that she had to start from the beginning. Luckily, two of her technicians and two graduate students transferred with her and helped her in establishing her own laboratory at the Children’s Psychiatric Research Institute (CPRI) where she worked as a Consultant. She planned to create a Department of Pathology for children with mental and physical disabilities for Southwestern Ontario.

In 1968 Daria was promoted to Professor of Pathology in the Department of Paediatrics at the UWO. She was a Consultant in the Department of Pathology at Victoria Hospital, which provided services to the War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

Daria spent one sabbatical year (1972 – 72) in Oxford in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology. There she developed tissue culture techniques for arterial endothelium and smooth muscle cells. She introduced these techniques in her laboratory upon her return home.

Daria enjoyed many international contacts in her professional life. She presented her original work at meetings of several US medical societies. She lectured at universities in Canada and abroad. She took part in numerous scientific meetings at home and all over the world. She also served on the Editorial Boards of five international journals and headed many professional associations, societies, and organizations in the fields of pathology, paediatrics, and general medicine.

However, Daria was most proud of the achievements made by her former students. She has been named the Best Teacher at the University of Western Ontario. In spite of her long career, she is still actively involved with the medical community.

Sources:

Who's Who in Canadian Women 06-01-1998

“Maria Daria Haust: Killam Laureate 1990” in In Celebration of Canadian Scientists: a Decade of Killam Laureates Ed. Kenney-Wallace, G. A., MacLeod, M. G., Stanton, R. G. The Killam Program of the Canadian Council

 

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