ince 1987, the Hildes medal has been awarded at each International Congress on Circumpolar Health to distinguished individuals nominated by the adhering bodies of the International Union for Circumpolar Health. Since 1987, more than twenty researchers and health workers from Alaska, Canada, the Nordic countries and Russia have received this award. Between them, the recipients share an unsurpassed volume of knowledge and experience about the Arctic.

About Dr. John Arthur Hildes (1918-1984)


r. Jack Hildes was born on January 22, 1918 in Toronto, Canada. He received his medical degree at the University of Toronto. From 1941 to 1946 he served in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, serving in Burma and Singapore, and rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

After the war he pursued postgraduate studies in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology and Physiology in England as well as Canada. He received his MRCP degree in England in 1948, and his Fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians of Canada in 1949.

In the 1950s and 60s he engaged in physiology research, particularly with regard to cold adaptation. He assumed a provincial leadership role in the early 1950s, when an outbreak of polio assumed epidemic proportions. He had an active practice in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at the University of Manitoba, becoming full professor in 1966.

His work in cold physiology after the war led him to undertake numerous trips to the arctic regions of Canada as well as other circumpolar arctic regions. He developed a deep understanding of the medical needs of arctic peoples, and the challenges that face health care workers in remote regions. In 1970 he formed the Northern Medical Unit within the University of Manitoba. The Unit now bears his name, and continues its mission based on his founding principles of health care service delivery, teaching and research. He was an early advocate for the empowerment of aboriginal people in health and health care issues.

Dr. Hildes served as a consultant, researcher, teacher, clinician and friend to aboriginal people from coast to coast within Canada, and internationally. He was a co-founder and chairperson of the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health, and was active within the International Union for Circumpolar Health. He was a mentor and friend to several generations of doctors, nurses, scientists, community health workers and advocates within circumpolar regions. In turn he was sustained and nurtured in his personal and professional life by the love and support of his wife Marianne, and his children Elske, Joseph and David.

The Medal

Dr. Hildes died of cancer in 1984. In 1987, the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health, with a grant from the Donner Canadian Foundation, struck a medal in honour of Dr. Hildes, to be awarded at each International Congress on Circumpolar Health. The four recipients are chosen by each of the adhering bodies of the International Union of the Circumpolar Health (IUCH), those being the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health, the Nordic Society of Arctic Medicine (formerly the Nordic Council for Arctic Medical Research), the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, and the American Society for Circumpolar Health. Beginning at the 12th International Congress in Circumpolar Health in Nuuk, Greenland in 2003, a fifth medal was awarded to an individual nominated by the Danish/Greenlandic Society for Circumpolar Health, a new adhering body of the IUCH.

The award is one of prestige and honour, to be given to those working in any of the circumpolar nations with the dedication exemplified by that of Dr. Hildes. It is an international prize, awarded to individuals demonstrating excellence in northern medicine and health, in consideration of their contributions through service, research and humanitarianism.