McMaster University

McMaster University

The Four Horsemen

"To have striven, to have made the effort, to have been true to certain ideals - this alone is worth the struggle."~ Sir William Osler, Dundas-raised Physician and Icon of Modern Medicine (1849 - 1919)

Ernest Fallen John Cairns Douglas Holder
From left: Ernest Fallen, John Cairns and Douglas Holder

In 1974, Dr. Arnold Johnson, Clinical Epidemiologist at McMaster University, and Director of the Divisions of Adult and Pediatric Cardiology at McGill University, approached McGill staff cardiologists, Dr. Ernest Fallen and Dr. Paul Tanser, and cardiology fellows, Dr. John Cairns and Dr. Douglas Holder, with an extraordinary opportunity.

Dr. E. Moran Campbell, McMaster’s Chairman of Medicine, had asked Dr. Johnson to spearhead the development of a university-based department of cardiology at McMaster. Dr. Johnson is remembered as a much loved and respected physician and humanitarian by those who were fortunate to have known him. His mentorship was perhaps the most compelling reason for the self-titled "Four Horsemen" (Drs. Fallen, Tanser, Cairns and Holder) to leave Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital for Hamilton, and create the foundations for cardiology at McMaster today.

Other significant motivating factors amongst the group included the chance to participate in a meaningful way to build a cardiology program in a grassroots fashion from the ground up: teaching, mentoring and collaborating. Personal reasons also factored into each individual’s decision, including established collegiality amongst the group of four at McGill, exciting new research opportunities, excellent clinical facilities including a new state-of-the-art Coronary Care Unity and Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, and the uncertain and volatile political climate in 1970s Quebec with the recent FLQ Crisis, Trudeau’s War Measures Act, and physician’s strike. Also, Ancaster-born Dr. Holder was coming home.

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