Dr. Donald Henry Cowan, also known as Dr. Don Cowan, was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland on Mary 27th, 1932. He has four children with his wife Norma Margaret Duffe.
Dr. Cowan’s primary education was at Holloway School and Prince of Wales College in St. John’s, Newfoundland (1937-1945). From 1945-1950 he attended Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School in Brantford, Ontario. He obtained his M.D. from the University of Toronto in 1956. From 1956-1957 he was Junior Intern Rotating at Toronto General Hospital. From 1957-1958 he was Senior Intern Medicine at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. From 1958-1959 he was Assistant Resident in Pathology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre in New York City, New York. From 1959-1960 he returned to Toronto General Hospital as Assistant Resident in Medicine, followed by a year as Resident Physician. From 1961-1962 he was Resident in Medicine at Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto. From 1962-1963 he was a Fellow in Haematology-Oncology, Hammersmith Hospital, Postgraduate Medical School, London, and Chester Beatty Research Institute, London, England.
Dr. Cowan began his professional career with an appointment as Assistant Physician in the Department of Medicine at the Toronto General Hospital. He maintained this position from 1963-1968 and then continued his work as a Physician in the Department of Medicine at the Princess Margaret Hospital from 1968-1974. He was also Consultant Medical Staff at The Wellesley Hospital, Toronto (1970-1979). From 1974-2003 he was Active Staff in the Department of Medicine at Sunnybrook Medical Centre, which was subsequently renamed Sunnybrook Health Science Centre (1990) and Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre (1998). From 2004 onwards he continued his work at Sunnybrook as Courtesy Staff. During his tenure at Sunnybrook he was also the Head of the Department of Medicine (1974-1986) and the Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Program (1992-1994). Simultaneously, Dr. Cowan was also a Senior Consultant in Medicine at the Princess Margaret Hospital (1978-1996). From 1992 onwards he also held various positions at Cancer Care Ontario (CCO, formerly the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation [OCTRF]) including Vice-President Treatment Services (1992-1994), Vice-President Provincial Programs and Head of Treatment & Supportive Care Services (1994-1998), Executive Vice-President and Head of Treatment & Supportive Care Services (1999-2000), Senior Consultant (2000-2007) and Consultant Emeritus (2007- ).
Throughout his career Dr. Cowan has held various academic appointments with the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto including Clinical Teacher (1963-1968), Assistant Professor (1970-1972), Associate Professor (1972-1974), Professor (1974-2003) and Professor Emeritus (2003- ). He was the Deputy Chair for the Department of Medicine, University of Toronto from 1982-1986, and Chair of the Oncology Coordinating Council at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto (1986-1990). From 1989-1992 he was both Associate Dean for Clinical and Institutional Affairs and Acting Chair for the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, both with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Cowan has been involved in many and varied Committees at the Department of Medicine and Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Under the banner of the Department of Medicine he was Coordinator for the Postgraduate Training Programme in Haematology (1970-1974), Chairman (1978-1981) and Co-chairman (1981-1984) for the Geriatrics Training Committee, and Chairman (1986-1988) and Member (1988-1989) for the Department of Medicine Planning Committee. Under the banner of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, he has been involved with the Appeals Committee (1975-1979), UTHA Planning Committee (1976-1978), Geriatrics Coordinating Committee (1979-1980), Geriatrics Advisory Committee (1980-1984), and Senior Advisory Committee (1987-1989). He has been a member of various ad-hoc search committees and task forces and was a representative of the University of Toronto on the Board of Directors of St. Michael’s Hospital (1989-1992), St. Joseph’s Health Centre (1989-1992), Clinical Research and Treatment Institute of the Addiction Research Foundation (1989-1992), Sunnybrook Hospital University of Toronto Clinic (1989-1992), Eye Research Institute of Ontario (1990-1992), and Hospital Council of Metropolitan Toronto (1989-1991). He was Chairman of the University of Toronto Bone Marrow Transplantation Working Committee from 1978-1980 and a member of the Working Group of the Presidential Commission on the Health Sciences from 1992-1994.
From 1987-1988 Dr. Cowan was involved in the PMH Relocation Committee as both the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Site Relocation and a member of the Teaching and Research Subcommittee.
Dr. Cowan has also been involved in various hospital-related, provincial, national and international committees. Most notably the Planning Committee for a new Cancer Treatment Centre in Toronto (Princess Margaret Hospital, 1971-1974), the Cancer Research Committee of the Advisory Board of OCTRF (1975-1983), Specialty Committee on Hematology at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (1974-1984), and Joint Medical Affairs Committee for the Canadian Cancer Society/National Cancer Institute of Canada (1988-1994). He has been on both the National Board (1993-1996) and the Board for the Ontario Division (1999-2005) of the Canadian Cancer Society.
In addition to his clinical and educational work, Dr. Cowan has a keen interest in the history of medicine and cancer care. He has been involved with the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine as Member (1991-1993) and Chair (1993-1995) of the special Grants Committee, and Chair of the Development Advisory Committee (1995-1999). He was also part of the History of Medicine Club at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City from 1958-1959 and the History and Heritage Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (2008). His interest in the history of cancer care has led to biographical research on key players in the history of cancer care in Ontario. Some of this research was conducted to write biographies for Cancer Care Ontario’s Public Relations Department as well as a short history produced by CCO entitled “Closing Circles: A history of the governance of cancer control in Ontario” (2004). Dr. Cowan has also published biographical articles on Drs. O. Harold Warwick  and Vera Peters[2,3].
Dr. Cowan was awarded two postgraduate fellowships—the Gordon Richards Fellowship from the Ontario Division of the Canadian Cancer Society in 1961, and the McEachern Fellowship from the Canadian Cancer Society in 1962. His more recent awards include an Award of Merit from the National Cancer Institute of Canada (1996) and Award for Excellence in Medicine and Health from the Canadian Cancer Society (2003).
- Cowan, D H. "O. Harold Warwick: Canada's first medical oncologist." Current oncology 18.3 (2011):e117-20.
- Cowan, D H. "Vera Peters and the conservative management of early-stage breast cancer." Current oncology 17.2 (2010):50-4.
- Cowan, D H. "Vera Peters and the curability of Hodgkin disease." Current oncology 15.5 (2008):206-10.