A student at Tribhuvan University administers ether by way of a Schimmelbush Mask. Photo Credit: Dr. Roger Maltby.

Calgary, Kathmandu and the Ether between them

Dr. Jan Davies, Professor of Anesthesia and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of Calgary, contacted me last summer because she wanted to donate historic anesthesia instruments to the Museum on behalf of the Foothills Medical Centre. Dr. Davies selected items that filled gaps in the Museum’s anesthesia collection from a technical point of view, and also reflected the cultural side of medical work and research.

A collection of Tudor Williams Airways used in the operating rooms at Foothills Medical Centre, Calgary Alberta. Photo Credit: Dr. Jan Davies.

A collection of Tudor Williams Airways used in the operating rooms at Foothills Medical Centre, Calgary Alberta. Photo Credit: Dr. Jan Davies.

Her list contained a few intriguing items from Dr. Roger Maltby, a former staff anesthesiologist at Foothills Medical Centre and Professor Emeritus of Anesthesia at the University of Calgary. These pieces, a Schimmelbush Mask and an Epstein-Macintosh-Oxford inhaler complete with travelling case, were used during his time teaching medicine in Nepal in the 1980s.

 This EMO vaporiser was designed to deliver ether/air and is portable and robust. This object comes complete with an instruction booklet and travel case (note the old Canadian Airlines luggage tag). Photo Credit: Dr. Roger Maltby

This EMO vaporiser was designed to deliver ether/air and is portable and robust. This object comes complete with an instruction booklet and travel case (note the old Canadian Airlines luggage tag). Photo Credit: Dr. Roger Maltby

In the early 1980s, the World Health Organization projected that a minimum of 27 anaesthetists should be providing services in the country within that decade. While the need for these trained practitioners was there, the systems were not in place to train that many anesthetists in that short amount of time. By the mid-1980s, there were only seven anaesthetists for the whole of Nepal and they worked in hospitals in Kathmandu, leaving no anaesthetists for the rest of the country.

The Schimmelbush Mask has a shallow trough around the circumference of the mask. This element is designed to catch straying drops of liquid ether. Photo Credit: Dr. Roger Maltby.

The Schimmelbush Mask has a shallow trough around the circumference of the mask. This element is designed to catch straying drops of liquid ether. Photo Credit: Dr. Roger Maltby.

In the spring of 1984 the University of Calgary was approached to assist in establishing a Diploma in Anaesthesia Program at the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. Dr. Maltby agreed to be the Canadian co-ordinator, without any previous experience in facilitating programs appropriate for the conditions in a developing country. During our phone conversation this past winter, Dr. Maltby justified his decision to participate in the development of this diploma program by stating that, “they wouldn’t have asked me to do it if they didn’t think I could do it.”

His comment seems to minimize the enormity of the commitment he made to the program. And by commitment, I mean both the months at a time that Dr. Maltby spent in Nepal and the years that he dedicated to planning, evaluating, and reviewing various elements of the program.  While Dr. Maltby felt that it was “always their program”, he was instrumental in its success and realisation.

A student at Tribhuvan University administers ether by way of a Schimmelbush Mask. Photo Credit: Dr. Roger Maltby.

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