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History of the Montreal Chest Institute

Montreal Chest Institute History and the Meakins Christie Laboratories

The Royal Edward Institute (now the Montreal Chest Institute) was a hospital dedicated to treating and researching tuberculosis. It opened in Montreal in 1909 as the Anti-Tubercular League of Montreal in response to the tuberculosis epidemic, also known as consumption, that was a leading cause of illness and claimed 12,000 lives a year in Quebec. Its dispensary was established in November 1904, and three doctors worked six days a week, making 900 consultations and 110 home visits in its first year of operation. With King Edward VII’s determination to fight tuberculosis and with funding from the Burland family, the Royal Edward Institute opened on October 21, 1909. The hospital’s launch made headlines all over the British Empire for its technical wizardry. The opening was performed remotely by King Edward VII (who was too ill to make the trip in person) from England. With the flick of a telegraph switch, a transatlantic signal made the doors of the new hospital in Montreal, 3,000 miles away, swing open, the lights come on, and the flag fly up the flagpole. The Royal Edward Institute was established “for the study, prevention and cure of tuberculosis.” It quickly became one of Canada’s foremost hospitals specializing solely in respiratory diseases. The Institute provided public education initiatives and school programs as well as hospital services for tuberculosis patients.

Royal Edward Institute, St. Urbain Street, 1933 (The McGill News, Montreal Chest Institute Foundation)

In 1930, the Royal Edward Institute moved its facilities to the Montreal Chest Institute’s St. Urbain Street address. By 1923, it was officially recognized as a McGill University affiliated teaching hospital. A year later, the Institute moved to a new building on St. Urbain Street, where it remained until 2015. After the introduction of antibiotics to treat tuberculosis and the subsequent reduction in cases, the hospital’s focus shifted to general respiratory medicine. In 1969, the Royal Edward began treating cystic fibrosis patients and, in 1971, changed its name to the Montreal Chest Hospital Centre. The Meakins-Christie Laboratories for Respiratory Research were founded in 1973, and the Montreal Chest Institute has continuously refined its ability to treat respiratory conditions. The founding director of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories, Dr. Peter Macklem, was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in March 2012. In 1994, the Montreal Chest Institute merged with the Royal Victoria Hospital to become the Montreal Chest Institute of the Royal Victoria Hospital. Today the Montreal Chest Hospital is part of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). The Montreal Chest Institute relocated to the McGill University Hospital Centre (MUHC)’s Glen site, along with the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the Royal Victoria Hospital, in 2015.

Listen to the 5 part series on CBC News

Montreal Chest Institute: A majestic beginning to A Final Goodbye. CBC News. June 12, 2015.