Four Charles Larsons, Four MDCMs

Spring 2011

(L-R) Charles Larson MDCM '08; Charles Larson MDCM '71; Charles Larson MDCM '58; Charles Larson MDCM '36

To borrow a cliché, you can’t make this stuff up: a grand total of four Charles P. Larsons – all from the same family – have graduated from McGill with MDCMs. Now the latest in the long line, Charles P. Larson, MDCM’08, is about to become the chief resident of general pediatrics at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

“We’ve had to be creative to find names to publish under,” laughs the youngest Larson, age 26, the first of the line born in Montreal.

The Larsons’ long and winding relationship with McGill began in Washington state. The late Charles Philip Larson, MDCM’36, came from a family of Spokane bankers who lost everything in the Great Depression. He wanted to go to medical school and contacted a family friend for advice. The friend happened to be groundbreaking neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield.

Penfield suggested that Larson apply to McGill and wrote a reference letter that helped open the doors for the budding pathologist. After graduating, Larson became the first Allied physician to enter the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau as part of the War Crimes Investigation Team.

“He was on the front lines and they had to get him there quick,” his son Charles Palmer Larson, MDCM ’71, MSc’88, recalls on the phone from his home in Vancouver. “He’d end up in these concentration camps even ahead of the troops sometimes.”

This work would cement Larson’s international reputation and help make the field of forensic pathology immediately relevant to the world. After the war, the ’36 Larson quietly went back to Washington, where he and his wife got on with raising their family. And what a family – Charles Philip Larson, MDCM’58, after training in anesthesia, joined the Faculty of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, later became the chair of the department of anesthesia at Stanford, and is now at the University of California, Los Angeles. Charles Palmer, his brother, is a Vancouver pediatrician and epidemiologist who does research in global health and is an adjunct member of McGill’s pediatric faculty.

“I guess there’s a certain expectation or standard to live up to,” says the newest Larson. “I remember reading a biography on my grandfather as a little kid. There was pressure to do something important in my life and make a difference in the world.”

His father sums up what attracted him to study at McGill in the late 1960s. “I had been admitted to other medical schools,” he says, “but what really grabbed me when I went up there was the French influence. It really seemed like an appealing place to study. You don’t say no to McGill.”

[Billy Shields]

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One Response to “Four Charles Larsons, Four MDCMs”
  1. Congratulations! and many kind wishes for Charles and Charles Jr. and best wishes in elected activity to youngest Larson – Leila. Charles – You are a great. Charles Jr. – You’ll be always Jr. (sorry). . . . as Charles 😎 Congratulations to my good friends from faraway RUSSIA. Igor Melnikov, chelyabinsk State Medical Academy (former