In Memoriam: Dr. Howard I. Holmes 1947-2021

As you enjoy this issue of Oral Health, I would ask that you all observe a moment to honour and celebrate the life of a champion of our Profession. An Oral Health consultant and contributor for over a decade, Dr. Howard Ian Holmes, passed away peacefully on April 18, 2021. Many of you that are graduates of the University of Toronto would have known Dr. Holmes and benefited from his exceptional wisdom and knowledge of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

Dr. Bruce Pynn, Dr. Iain Nish, Dr. Howard I. Holmes
Dr. Bruce Pynn, Dr. Iain Nish, Dr. Howard I. Holmes

As graduate students of the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery program at U of T, we would spend innumerable hours in Dr. Holmes’ company. Like Mitch Alboms book Tuesdays with Morrie, we observed our own “Sundays with Howard” and would meet every Sunday at the Toronto General Hospital to review the models and xrays for the upcoming surgical cases for the week. These sessions could be arduous but there was “method” to Dr. Holmes’ “madness”, as he took us from green surgical residents to highly skilled surgeons over those four years. He instilled in us the essential principles of surgery and the same commitment to excellence that characterized his career. As raw recruits we were trained in the planning and management of complex facial reconstruction cases that we would be tasked with performing throughout our careers.

Dr. Holmes’ professional and personal life paints the portrait of an exceptional man. He overcame the adversity of physical disability related to the effects of childhood polio to become one of Canada’s most distinguished Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, and one of our most memorable instructors. He understood the privilege and responsibility of his role as a surgeon and educator, and for him that meant compassion and the selflessness of service to his patients, students and colleagues. A mentor to his students and residents for life, Dr. Holmes could always be called upon for assistance on the management of a difficult case or complex situation encountered in practice.

Dr. Holmes was particularly proud of his career at U of T, which spanned 37 years, and the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Fellowship Program that he helped to create. However, for all the praise and accolades bestowed on Dr. Holmes, he exemplified the essence of humility. Forever a stalwart supporter of Residency education, and a crusader for Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, he made us proud of what we do as Dentists and Surgeons, and our contribution to healthcare.

Dr. Daniel Laskin, at 97 and one of the most renowned Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, upon hearing of Howard’s passing stated “It is a great loss to the profession but his contributions will not be forgotten.”

A teacher to the very end, his legacy lives on in us all.