Facebook Pixel Code
Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

In memory of Dr. Peter Durie

Dr. Peter Durie, a world leader in the field of cystic fibrosis and pancreatic diseases of children, passed away on Aug. 27, 2018. Below, a tribute from Dr. Durie’s colleagues in the Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology/Nutrition, Department of Paediatrics.

It is with sadness and a great sense of loss that we announce the passing of Dr. Peter Durie, a giant in the field of paediatric gastroenterology, whose tenure at SickKids as a clinician, researcher, educator, mentor and patient advocate spanned a remarkable 44 years. His was a career with sustained excellence, innovation and far-reaching impact. Heartfelt tributes from around the world have poured in from former trainees and colleagues, each a testament to Peter's talents and accomplishments, but more so to the personal encouragement, wisdom, friendship and professional guidance Peter so caringly offered to those of us fortunate enough to work with him.

Peter was born and grew up in the Rift Valley region of Kenya. He completed university undergraduate studies in Zoology in Cardiff, Wales, then immigrated to Canada working first as a high school teacher, before entering McMaster University medical school, attracted by its then novel approach to medical education and lifelong self-directed inquiry. He arrived at SickKids in 1974 as an energetic and very engaged paediatric resident. Continuing as a paediatric gastroenterology fellow, he undertook research training relevant to the study of exocrine pancreatic function in the laboratory of Dr. Gordon Forstner. After a year of additional training at Stanford, Peter returned as faculty in the Division of Gastroenterology in 1980, and here he stayed.

Throughout his career, Dr. Durie was a passionate "clinician/scientist" who made outstanding contributions to the field of inherited exocrine pancreatic disorders, notably cystic fibrosis (CF) and Shwachman Diamond syndrome (SDS). Discoveries, which have changed the understanding of these conditions, were facilitated by both his ability as a scientist to think creatively and innovatively, and by his skills as a leader in effectively bringing together teams of collaborators.  

He was integral to the many advances emanating from the SickKids CF program, now the CF Centre of Excellence.  These included early delineation of the pathophysiology of exocrine pancreatic function in CF, genotype-phenotype correlation studies, pioneering of novel diagnostic tests, identification of modifier genes and their influence on CF phenotype, and examination of the CF gene in other disorders (e.g. sclerosing cholangitis, idiopathic pancreatitis and male infertility). To Shwachman Diamond Syndrome, the much rarer disorder, Dr. Durie applied the same research skills, vision, and leadership. His efforts, together with those of Dr. Johanna Rommens, and aided immensely by Lynda Ellis, clinical research nurse, culminated in the identification in 2003 of the mutated gene (SBDS) responsible for the multi-system disorder. Peter's research achievements combined with his superb ability to communicate inspirationally meant that internationally for paediatrics, he was THE expert in the exocrine pancreas.

But he was so much more! He was an astute and compassionate clinician, a strong supporter of allied health professionals with whom he worked, and always a valued advisor to lay organizations such as Cystic Fibrosis Canada and SDS Canada. He was the University of Toronto fellowship training program director from 1984 to 1993 and the cherished mentor to so many trainees, now excelling in their own careers. He served with distinction in many leadership positions, including as Division Head at SickKids from 1993 to 1998, overseeing the merger of the Division of Gastroenterology with Clinical Nutrition. He was President of the North American Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) from 1990 to 1992. He was a key member of the group of editors who launched the text Paediatric Gastrointestinal Disease, now in its 6th edition, and widely accepted as the primary text for our subspecialty.

His many awards include the Paul di San't Agnese Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the American Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and, from NASPGHAN,  the Shwachman Award, which recognizes individuals who have made major, lifelong contributions to the field of paediatric gastroenterology, hepatology or nutrition in North America. Certainly Peter did that… and more.   

Peter's solace during his much suffering with illness has been his family: his loving and lovely wife, Judy, his treasured sons, Damien and Tristan, their partners, and two adored grandsons, Phoenix and Sebastian. To them, for whom this loss is greatest, we extend our very deepest sympathy.

One of the many messages received from the legion of professional colleagues influenced by our friend says it all: "A light has gone out, but he has left shining memories for us all."