London psychiatric pioneer gets recognition at long last
|By Paula Schuck
The London Free Press, April 20, 1999
Dr. Ruth Kajander, 74, now of Thunder Bay, stands with Dr. Sussman in the historical section of the London Psychiatric Hospital. At one time, patients were immersed in warm baths and were held there under canvas covers in the belief this would be relaxing for them. Kajander remembers when such treatment was still being used in Canadian hospitals.
|A London author and psychiatric historian is
setting the record straight about a long-overlooked female pioneer who helped
Ruth Kajander, now 71 and living in Thunder Bay, did her residency at London Psychiatric Hospital (LPH) in 1952 and 1953. There, she helped pioneer the use of Largactil, a powerful tranquilizer which, for the first time, allowed mentally ill patients to function outside institutions.
Kajander, who still practices psychiatry, reconciled herself to to "being forgotten by history" many years ago, but a phone call from Sam Sussman changed that.
Sussman, a former social work director at LPH, who works as an adjunct professor at University of Western Ontario and medical placement recruiter, wondered why Kajander and London weren't credited for her accomplishments.
"I think it's a bit of a shame that the fact that Largactil was pioneered and developed in London, is not well known...
the penicillin of the psychiatric industry," Sussman said during break from
interviews for the book he's writing about Kajander and London's claim to fame.
At the London hospital, the room where hydrotherapy
patients were once restrained beneath a heavy canvas and immersed in a full bathtub still
exists. So does the crib, but its in the hospital's archives. Neither has been used
"Up until the mid 50's, psychiatric hospitals like
this one had populations of 1,700 to 1,800 patients whose chances of being discharged were
virtually nil." Sussman said.