London

Dr. Peter Fowler, pioneer in Canadian sports medicine, dies at 84

Dr. Peter Fowler, a surgeon whose groundbreaking work helped hone advanced surgical techniques for the rehabilitation of elite and amateur athletes across the country, has died in London, Ont., at the age of 84. 

Among his many accolades, Dr. Peter Fowler, was a recipient of the Order of Canada in 2018

Dr. Peter Fowler, who has been called an icon of sports medicine, died on Wednesday of a respiratory infection in London, Ont. He was 84. (London Health Sciences Foundation/YouTube)

Dr. Peter Fowler, a surgeon whose groundbreaking work helped hone advanced surgical techniques for the rehabilitation of elite and amateur athletes across the country, has died in London, Ont., at the age of 84. 

Fowler died Wednesday from a respiratory infection with his family at his bedside at University Hospital in London, Ont., the place where the innovative surgeon refined and perfected many of the minimally-invasive arthroscopic surgical techniques that would make him famous.

Arthroscopy is a procedure where a surgeon inserts a narrow tube attached to a fiber-optic video camera through a small incision about the width of a pencil into a damaged joint. The view is then sent to a high definition monitor so the surgeon can repair the joint without making a large incision. 

Fowler was a pioneer inside and outside the operating room — teaming up with his mentor, the late Dr. Jack Kennedy in 1974, to create their namesake Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic.

Dr. Peter Fowler. (Fowler Kennedy Clinic)

It grew from a small athletic injury clinic to one of the largest centres in North America, capable of providing a broad array of health services, from surgery to physiotherapy. 

"What really put Fowler Kennedy on the map was his view that the way we deliver care is a comprehensive team-based approach, where we have primary care physicians who specialize in sport medicine, surgeons, all working together under the same roof," said Sarah Padfield, the clinic's executive director. 

Widely respected

Fowler was widely respected in the world of medicine. He was only one of two Canadians ever named president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sport Medicine and was the first president of the International Society of Arthroscopy and Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, the largest such society in the world. 

He also mentored and taught many surgeons himself, who have since taken his innovative techniques all over the world, Padfield said. 

"We're getting lots of condolences from students all over the world. Our fellows and our trainees have come through here from all over the world, so the reach is immense."

Dr. Peter Fowler shakes hands with Governor General Julie Payette when he received the Order of Canada on November 20, 2018, at Rideau Hall. (Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall)

"We're sad we've lost the soul of the clinic, but we are also very thankful for his vision and his leadership over the years," Padfield said. 

Fowler also played an important role in pushing the boundaries of medical knowledge through research, with hundreds of peer-reviewed papers under his belt, including one in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

That paper, submitted by Folwer and his team, compared knee arthroscopy to non-operative care for knee arthritis. It was awarded top achievements in health research in 2009 by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

A statement from the Fowler Kennedy Sports Medicine clinic said Wednesday more information about Fowler's legacy and a celebration of life would be "announced shortly."

now