Kenneth Neander Fenwick


Kenneth Neander Fenwick, MA, MD, MRCS (Eng)

1852 - 1896
Faculty of Medicine 1876 - 1896
Obstetrics & Gynaecology 1885 - 1896

KENNETH FENWICK was born in Kingston April 12, 1852, the son of Reverend K.M. Fenwick and his wife Anne who had emigrated from Scotland in 1845. He received his primary education at the Kingston Private Academy and subsequently earned his BA at Queen's in 1871. He entered the Royal Medical College earning his MD degree in 1874 at the age of 22. He was appointed a house surgeon at the Kingston General Hospital and served as president of the Aesculapian Society during his final undergraduate year.

Fenwick did postgraduate training at St. Thomas' Hospital, London, England as a surgical dresser. While in England he wrote the MRCS (Eng) examinations and visited a number of other hospitals before returning to Kingston.

Dr Fenwick initially worked in partnership with Dr Yates but after three years he took over the practice of his grandfather, Dr Sampson.

Dr Fenwick's association with the Royal Medical College began in 1670 with his appointment as a demonstrator in anatomy. He was appointed professor of medical jurisprudence in 1877 and subsequently professor of physiology and bacteriology (Institutes of Medicine) in 1881. He was appointed professor of obstetrics and gynaecology in 1885, at the age of 33.

Dr Fenwick was an excellent teacher. He had the ability of conveying knowledge to others in a systematic, intelligent manner. His lectures were clear and concise. He was popular, respected and trusted by students. He was a committed advocate of continuing education.

In 1885 he went to New York to attend a postgraduate course and to visit Roosevelt Hospital where he saw the new operating room theatres. He also was introduced to the benefits of antiseptic techniques in the treatment of wounds and the value of trained nurses. His experiences had an important impact on health care in Kingston. He introduced the antiseptic system in the management of his patients and was a vigorous advocate of this principle. He also wrote to the board of the hospital urging for the establishment of a training school for nurses at the hospital. The board agreed and in November 1885 advertised for applications for two young women to be trained as nurses at the Kingston General Hospital. The editor of the British Whig published a letter from Dr Fenwick in May 1886 outlining the proposal for the training school and the advantages of this vocation for women. This letter from a respected physician contributed to the changing attitudes toward nursing. Fifteen applications followed and there was never again a shortage.

Dr Fenwick travelled overseas in 1890 visiting hospitals in London, Edinburgh, Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna. In 1893 he went to the United States to visit hospitals in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, where he met Dr Joseph Price, and to Baltimore where he met Dr William Osler and Dr Howard Kelly at the new Johns Hopkins Hospital. Significant developments again resulted. Obstetric and gynaecologic patients were increasing at the Kingston General Hospital and in 1892. Dr Fenwick restricted his clinical activities to this specially. A separate building was proposed for obstetrics and gynaecology and $20,000 of the Doran estate bequest was committed for a women's and children's hospital. The Doran Wing, formally opened in February, 1894 was described as a model women's hospital with separate wards for maternity, gynaecology and isolation plus its own operating room.

Dr Fenwick also proposed a new operating amphitheatre for the hospital and to this end donated $2,500 to the hospital. The two-story stone building housing a surgical amphitheatre and seating for one hundred students was added to the back of the main hospital building. It was opened formally in November of 1895 and was known as the Fenwick operating theatre.

Dr Fenwick had high expectations for medical education and practice. In 1888 in an inaugural lecture to new medical students he said their chosen profession was a noble one, worthy of a lifetime's devotion. Medicine was a progressive science that demanded continuous study. 'Every year records some discovery or advance in the knowledge of the healing art, some new theory of treatment soon to yield golden fruit for the good of humanity.' Again in an address to faculty and medical students in 1894 he concluded:

I have no patience with the man who thinks he is perfect, that he knows it all. Let each one of us therefore aim to add something to the sum total of medical knowledge.

While draining an abscess of a child Dr Fenwick sustained a small cut on a finger. This apparently innocuous injury became infected, then gangrenous and he died of septacemia January 21, 1896 at the age of 43. His contribution to the university, the hospital and the community was expressed in the many memorials written at the time of his death.

Dr Fenwick's family life was marked by misfortune. He and his first wife (a Miss Sterling) had a daughter and a son before her death. Five years later he married a Miss Hamilton who gave birth to a second daughter only to die within the next year. In June 1894 he married Miss MacPherson of Ottawa.