Canadian Medical Association

Canadian Medical Association

August 10, 2006 13:31 ET

Dr. Henry G. Friesen to Receive the CMA's Highest Honour

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 10, 2006) - On August 23, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) will present the 2006 F.N.G. Starr Award to Dr. Henry Friesen, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. With this award, the CMA expresses its recognition for his exceptional devotion for the betterment of mankind which has made a difference in health care. His inspired vision and outstanding leadership transformed and enriched health research in Canada forever.

Named for Frederic Newton Gisborne Starr (1867-1934), a former Secretary General of the CMA, the F.N.G. Starr Award has been described as the "Victoria Cross of Canadian Medicine." First given in 1936 to Sir Frederick Banting, Dr. Charles Best and Dr. James Collip, this medal represents the highest award that the CMA can bestow upon one of its members in recognition of outstanding achievement.

"It is humbling to be recognized in this way especially when I see the list of outstanding individuals previously honored by this award," said Dr. Henry Friesen. "I feel truly blessed and deeply grateful for the variety of opportunities I have had in medicine and science as a teacher clinician, researcher and administrator."

Born in Morden, Manitoba, Dr. Friesen attended the University of Manitoba and graduated in science and medicine in 1958. He trained as an endocrinologist at the New England Center Hospital, Boston, and was named a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1963.

In 1965 he was appointed to McGill University and Royal Victoria Hospital where he became a professor in experimental medicine and director of the Protein and Polypeptide Hormone Laboratory. In 1973 he moved to Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba where he served until 1991 as professor and head of the department of physiology, and professor of medicine.

He successfully isolated and purified the human pituitary hormone prolactin and determined that excessive circulating prolactin caused infertility. This observation laid the groundwork for other investigators and resulted in the development of an antagonist drug, bromocriptine, to treat this cause of infertility. Tens of thousands of women worldwide have benefited from this new therapy. His research on growth hormones also led to the development of new treatments for children with hormone deficiencies. One admirer said that because of his seminal observations and enormous work in the field of prolactin, Dr. Friesen is a "living legend" in the field of endocrinology.

Dr. Friesen's work has reached many others through the more than 400 articles he published or co-authored in such eminent medical journals as Endocrinology, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, New England Journal of Medicine, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

In the mid-1990s he chaired a working group that led to the creation of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, now endowed with $125 million by the federal government.

In 1999 his visionary leadership and tireless effort set the stage for the transformation of the MRC into a new agency. Dr. Friesen was appointed chair of the interim governing council whose task was to recommend a legislative mandate, governance, structure and program framework that would transform and modernize Canada's health research enterprise into the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The Liberal government of the day accepted the recommendations.

In 2000, he was appointed the founding chair of Genome Canada, the federal government's lead corporation supporting genomics research in Canada and served in this role for five years.

Dr. Friesen is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Advancement of Medicine. He and his wife, the former Joyce MacKinnon, have two children and live in Winnipeg.

This year Dr. Henry Friesen will become the 41st recipient of the CMA F.N.G. Starr Award at a special ceremony at the Stratford Town Hall in Charlottetown, PEI as part of the CMA's 139th annual meeting.

(Visit the CMA website at for full biographical notes on Dr. Henry Friesen)

Contact Information

  • CMA
    Carole Lavigne
    Manager, Media Relations
    1 (800) 663-7336 or (613) 731-8610, ext. 1266