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Remembering Dr. Donald Low: an international leader in infectious disease

Acclaimed mentor, health leader during the SARS crisis

Donald Low, a trusted leader in the field of infectious disease, a globally recognized researcher and mentor, passed away Wednesday.

"Don Low was a wonderful colleague, gifted in teaching, research, individual patient care, and hospital epidemiology alike," said U of T President David Naylor. "He will always be remembered at the University as one of the heroes of the Toronto SARS outbreak response."

Low was the voice of Toronto’s 2003 SARS crisis, using his expertise and communications skills to reassure and inform the public throughout the crisis. Afterwards, Low helped revitalize public health systems and advanced the practice of microbiology and infectious diseases across Canada.

“Through his research in laboratory medicine and leadership role during SARS, Dr. Low helped protect the health of all Ontarians and people around the world,” said Cathy Whiteside, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

A native of Winnipeg, Low studied at the University of Manitoba where he earned undergraduate and medical degrees. After pursing further training in the U.S., he returned to Winnipeg in 1982 to serve as microbiologist-in-chief at St. Boniface Hospital. In 1985 he was recruited to run the microbiology department at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, a position he held till his death.

“Dr. Low was a greater mentor and role model to so many people throughout his career. He was approachable, always willing to help and a dear friend. He was a true leader who will be sorely missed by his friends, colleagues and the scientific community,” said Tony Mazzulli, Professor in U of T’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and Deputy Chief Microbiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Over the course of his career, Low co-authored nearly 400 peer-reviewed articles for scientific journals, 41 book chapters and almost 100 invited articles.

Alison McGeer, Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, worked with Low for 25 years and says she believes Low’s biggest contribution was mentoring students and helping to create a large network of infectious disease specialists.

“I think the most important thing he leaves behind is an entire generation of people who he supported to find the place in the world that was right for them,” McGeer told the Canadian Press.

Low is survived by his wife, Maureen Taylor, and his three children.

(Read The Globe and Mail's article on Low.) (Read the CBC's article on Low.)

Nicole Bodnar is a writer with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.