black and white image from the archives

History of the Faculty of Medicine

The University of Ottawa was first established as the College of Bytown in 1848. In 1866, the College received a university charter entitling it to grant the degree of Bachelor of Medicine.

The Faculty of Medicine was established in 1945 through the initiative of Father Lorenzo Danis who intended to provide post-war opportunities for French and English-speaking Catholics to study medicine.

The first medicine courses were given in unused army barracks at the corner of Somerset Street East and King Edward Avenue. A temporary executive council chaired by Father Danis administered the Faculty until 1950 when Dr. Arthur Richard was appointed as the first dean. The Faculty awarded its first medical degrees the following year in 1951. 

In the autumn of 1954, the Faculty relocated from its temporary home in the wartime barracks to a new building on the University’s main campus, where it remained for nearly a quarter of a century. 

In 1965, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, the Faculty submitted a request with the College of Arms of London to grant and assign its own proper armorial bearings. At this time, the Faculty adopted the official motto of “Sanando docemus” (“In healing, we teach”). The official armorial bearings were assigned by the letters patent under the signature and seal of the Garter King of Arms to the University for the Faculty on June 1, 1971. The Faculty is one of only three faculties of medicine in Canada with its own coat of arms, which was designed by its second dean, Dr. Jean-Jacques Lussier, who understood and emphasized the importance of symbolism’s role in tradition and culture. 

Throughout the sixties and seventies, extensive planning between the Faculty and the Hospital Planning Council created the concept of the Ottawa Health Sciences Centre on the Alta Vista site, which would join together the University’s medical school and nursing programs with a number of its affiliated teaching hospitals. The new Health Sciences building was inaugurated in 1982 and renamed Roger Guindon Hall in 1984 after the former University rector who played a key role in the building’s development. 

Changes made to the Faculty during this time were not limited solely to location. The University created the Faculty of Health Sciences in 1978, merging the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Human Kinetics together under the structure of the Faculty of Medicine’s existing governance. The occupational therapy and physiotherapy programs were added in 1986. By 1989, under the Dean Dr. Gilles Hurteau, the Faculty of Medicine regained its status as a separate academic unit.

In 1995, the Office of Francophone Affairs was established to support and dedicate resources to the growth of French medical education in Canada. Today, the Faculty still enjoys tenure as the nation’s only bilingual medical school. 

The Indigenous Program was created in 2005. In addition to increasing enrolment of Indigenous students in medical education, the program was founded to promote awareness of Indigenous cultures, health and social issues in Canada.

Our Coat of Arms

On the occasion of our 20th anniversary in 1965, the College of Arms of London granted and assigned our own proper armorial bearings with the official motto of “Sanando docemus” (“In healing, we teach”). 

Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II approved the inclusion of the Royal Crown in the armorial bearings in 1970, which were assigned by the letters patent under the signature and seal of the Garter King of Arms on June 1, 1971. The Faculty is only one of three faculties of medicine in Canada with its own coat of arms, designed by our second dean, Dr. Jean-Jacques Lussier. 

Our crest

In legend, the pelican tears the flesh from its own breast to feed its young. As a symbol, the pelican expresses the compassion essential to the practice of medicine.

Our shield 

  • The colours, red and silver, are Canada’s traditional colours and represent the country’s two main languages and culture. 
  • The wavy fess represents the Ottawa River.
  • The Royal Crown signifies Queen Victoria’s choice of Ottawa as the nation’s capital. 
  • The snakes twisted around the staff of the Aesculapius have long been the symbol of the medical profession. The symbol reflects an ancient belief that snakes possess healing powers. 
  • The three snakes in the shield represent the Faculty’s educational programs: Undergraduate Medical Education, Postgraduate Medical Education, as well as Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
  • The golden books, a heraldic symbol of educational institutions, represent the light of science and knowledge breaking through the darkness of ignorance and fear signified by the black border. 
Coat of arms

Our Seal

The Faculty of Medicine’s official seal was developed for use in ceremonial purposes, including the embossment of the diplomas of graduating classes. 

Elements of the official Coat of Arms are incorporated into the seal: the shield is featured prominently in the centre, with the three snakes representing the Faculty’s educational programs, the golden books for knowledge and the Royal Crown.

Surrounding the crest on the outer border of the seal are the University and Faculty names in Latin. The date of the Faculty’s establishment is outlined in Roman numerals at the top.

faculty seal