Dr. Thomas Dignan

12-Mar-1942 - 17-Jan-2021

Obituary Overview

Dr. Thomas Dignan


It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Dr. Thomas Dignan, son of Harry and Sadie Dignan, who passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 17th. Dr. Tom was a beloved husband, father, grandfather and a mentor to many. Committed to his community he was passionate about education, equal access to health care and anti-racist practice in his decades as an anesthesiologist and primary care physician. The first Indigenous graduate of McMaster University’s School of Medicine Dr. Tom dedicated his life to the mentorship of Indigenous youth and physicians. He was a founding member of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada and the First President of the Native Nurses Association of Canada. Proud recipient of the Order of Canada (2018), Order of Ontario (2006), the Queen’s Golden (2002) and Diamond (2012) Jubilee Medals, as well as the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (2005) for his work as a physician and advocacy in eradicating disparities in health outcomes and inequities in the quality of health care for Indigenous Peoples as a result of institutional racism. Dr. Tom was also an enthusiastic member of the Board of Governors at the First Nations University through which he was both a mentor and policy advisor. Compassionate and inspiring, fiery and courageous, outspoken and bold in every area of his life. He is survived by and sadly missed by his wife Cheryl, children; Heather (Michael) and Raymond Joseph, Grandchildren; Lauren Archer and Naya Dignan, Sisters; Anita Laing and Helen Mielko (Paul Mielko), and Florence Dignan (predeceased), nieces and nephews; Michael, Stephen, Nancy, Paula, David, Patricia, Stephen (predeceased) and Kevin. His loss has been felt tremendously but his family knows that the impact of his legacy will be far greater.

Special thanks to Dr. Tom’s primary care physician and life-long friend Dr. Lorna Gillen, his oncologist Dr. Brian Leber, close friends, confidants and constant support; Graham O’Donnell, Judith King-Siganski, Duanne Abbot, Dale ‘Bubba’ Agueste, Dr. Jeff Bradley, Michael Comuzzi, Pete, Jan Venturelli, Dan, Brian, and Ruthanne, to the hematology nurses at the Juravinski Hospital who kept his spirits high, and finally the family would like to extend their gratitude to Alan Ryley (predeceased) and the Ryley family for their friendship and support.

At this time we ask that any donations in Tom’s honour be directed to the First Nations University of Canada or the Indspire Foundation.

Information regarding a celebration of life will come at a later date.

Condolences from family and friends

Dr. Thomas Dignan

Posted by Vivian McAlister | 25-Feb-2021


We will miss you terribly, Tom. I looked forward to the Royal College Council meetings in Ottawa so much more knowing that I would see you. I enjoyed our late nights in Chateau Laurier when we solved all the problems of the world. You always brought the conversation back to your family and your voice would tremor as you spoke with affection and love. You have had a wonderful journey and you helped many along the way. Nyaweh.

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