Summer 2022 (Volume 32, Number 2)
Canadian Heroes in Rheumatology:
Kam Shojania, MD, FRCPC
Mary Pack’s first exposure to arthritis
was when she worked as a
homeschool teacher in British
Columbia (BC) in the 1940s. She taught
children who were too disabled to go to
school, and many of her students had long-term
joint damage due to juvenile arthritis.
Mary’s mother also had severe arthritis.
She was moved by the suffering of people
with arthritis and, in 1944, began a 5-year
advocacy mission for research into the
cause and treatment of arthritis. She was
determined to help her students and all
people with arthritis.
Using her considerable charisma and
intelligence, she pulled together a dedicated group of
physicians, allied healthcare providers and patients to
lobby the government for support. She was the founder
of the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society’s
(CARS — now the Arthritis Society) first Division in
1948 in BC, and was a key fundraiser and organizer of the
Vancouver Arthritis Centre (built in 1969 and renamed
the Mary Pack Arthritis Centre in 1994). In 1949, the
BC Ministry of Health provided CARS a $25,000 grant to
deliver services to people with arthritis in BC. Physiotherapists
were hired and equipment was purchased for mobile
units to bring care to people with arthritis at home.
Mary helped institute a mobile service where rheumatologists
and occupational therapists would drive or fly to
distant communities to provide care. By the end of 1973,
the Division had 65 professional staff. Mary’s legacy lives
on as the Mary Pack Arthritis Program continues to
provide specialized services for people with arthritis in
Vancouver, Victoria, Penticton, Cranbrook and 38 small
towns across British Columbia. The program also hosts
quaternary clinics for rare rheumatic diseases, combined
clinics and a young adult transition clinic.
In 1974, Mary Pack published “Never Surrender,” a passionate
story of the birth and development of the Canadian
Arthritis and Rheumatism Society, ending with the
construction of our unique Arthritis Centre in Vancouver.
Typically for Mary, the profits from the sale of this book
were invested back into arthritis research.
A tribute to Mary Pack was written by Harold S. Robinson,
Head of Rheumatology, in the 1970s:
“This edifice she did build so well moved on toward the
third millennium, never completely constant, always
demanding renewal and re-dedication of purpose;
buffeted by the winds of change in people, governments
and educational institutions; unchanging however, in its
commitment to people afflicted with rheumatic disease.”
— HSR, 1994
Mary’s handprints can be seen in the concrete foundation
of her building. Mary truly has left her mark on arthritis
care in BC and in Canada. She is a rheumatology hero.
Kam Shojania, MD, FRCPC
Medical Director, Mary Pack Arthritis Program
Head, Division of Rheumatology, Vancouver General Hospital
Vancouver, British Columbia