Dr. June James, O.M., Hon DIP(RRC) , BSC., BSC (med), M.D , FRCPC.
Dedicating oneself to a career in medicine is a noble choice, one that June James has taken on with a gusto difficult to match. James excelled in the field of allergy and immunology and has contributed to her community at large.
James emigrated from Trinidad in 1960 alone, leaving behind her parents and four siblings. After a Bachelor of Science in 1963, she began her medical career, the first Black woman, to attend Manitoba Medical College; achieving a bachelor of science in medicine and her MD designation in 1967. She then specialized in pediatrics, and in allergy and clinical immunology.
James has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments. Having worked as an assistant professor in the faculty of medicine at the U of M and as a consultant in allergy and immunology at the Winnipeg Clinic and the Health Sciences Centre, she also developed the first family asthma program teaching parents and children how to manage asthma to reduce trips to the hospital.
James has led several organizations, including: the Winnipeg Clinic; the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba; the Manitoba Allergy Society; and, the allergy and immunology section of the Manitoba Medical Association. She was named a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Her list of community volunteer service is lengthy, having chaired the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation and the Winnipeg Foundation and served as president of the Manitoba Museum, the Manitoba Museum Foundation and the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba, which she co-founded. She currently sits on the board of St. John’s College.
She calls her greatest achievement in the community the 54-unit, affordable-housing complex constructed when she was president of the Harambee Housing Coop.
For her contributions, James has been presented many awards, including the YWCA Woman of the Year Award in 1981, for her work in medicine and the community, a citation for citizenship by the federal government and the Queen Elizabeth 50th Jubilee Medal. On July 15, 2004, James was invested into the Order of Manitoba by Lt.-Gov. Peter Liba and was conferred with an honourary diploma by Red River College.
She credits her involvement in these organizations with making her a better physician, but says living in Manitoba has played a part, too: “The quality of life here has kept me in Manitoba. I love the arts – my second choice in life was to be a concert pianist. I can’t play a note now, but the arts are very important to me. Art and music help to refresh my soul.”
In accepting her honourary diploma, James shared this advice with students: “Whatever goal you set for yourself, strive for excellence. And once you have achieved your goal, you should look around to see how you can help others.”