Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Ivan Barry Pless

  1. Bethany J Foster,
  2. Robert W Platt,
  3. Michael S Kramer

It is with sorrow that we note the death of Ivan Barry Pless. Barry was one of the world’s first paediatric epidemiologists. He was a pioneer in injury epidemiology and the founding editor of Injury Prevention, a BMJ journal. His devotion to Injury Prevention never waned; he continued to contribute to the journal through scientific manuscript reviews and editing until months before his death. He made important contributions in both research and advocacy in the area of child injury prevention, in Canada and internationally, and was a lifelong advocate for child health in Canada.

Barry grew up in Toronto. He went to medical school at the University of Western Ontario, followed by a paediatrics residency at the Montreal Children’s Hospital (a McGill University teaching hospital), completing a bachelors degree by correspondence at the same time. He completed his training with research fellowships at Harvard Medical School and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His early research career at the University of Rochester emphasised the adverse psychosocial consequences of chronic illness in children well before that was routinely considered. He returned to Montreal in 1975 with a joint appointment in the departments of paediatrics and epidemiology and health at McGill University, where his research focus shifted from chronic disease to childhood injury epidemiology. He created a new niche in injury epidemiology as the first to tackle scientifically the major problem of childhood injury prevention. Barry remained at McGill until his retirement as professor emeritus in 2010.

Barry had a leading role in fostering clinical and evaluative research at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. He was a kind and generous mentor to many, including the three of us, a wonderful research supervisor to numerous graduate students, and a graduate course teacher of scientific writing. Barry was also an admired paediatrician, with an instinct for bonding with his young patients, a skill that carried over to his own three children and five grandchildren.

In 1990 Barry was the sparkplug that led to the creation of the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP), a national consortium of 11 paediatric and nine general hospitals that continues to collect standardised data on cases of childhood injury seen at those hospitals. The programme has remained a valuable fount for surveillance and research of childhood injury in Canada for over three decades and now contains over 3.2 million records. Barry was also an outspoken advocate for implementing injury research findings by politicians, public health authorities, and the general public. Even in retirement, he continued to promote the use of seat belts, child safety seats, bicycle and ski helmets, and smoke alarms. In recognition of his major contributions, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1993 and promoted to Officer of the Order of Canada in 2017.

Barry touched the lives of many trainees, physicians, scientists, other health professionals, children, and families over the course of his 90 years. He leaves a lasting legacy in child health and injury prevention.

Paediatric epidemiologist and professor emeritus McGill University (b 1932; q University of Western Ontario, Canada, 1958; MD), died from complications of a pelvic fracture on 1 August 2023

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