SBH Movies


Cellular Behaviour of Lymphocytes in Culture


Here is a sample of the 30,000 feet of 16mm film I have amassed during my medical research career. Made with footage from both from my time as Medical Director of the Winnipeg Clinic Research Institute Laboratory and subsequently as Director of the Kildonan Institute of Gerontology which I founded in 1974, this film shows the behaviour of normal human lymphocytes.

Lymphocytes play a key role in immunology and studying their cellular behaviour can help us understand more about auto-immune diseases, cancer and AIDS.

I am currently collaborating with my daughter, also a writer and filmmaker, on other multimedia projects.


Every time I hear or read about the Winnipeg-based National Microbiology Lab (Wpg Free Press article Feb. 21/07) and the research projects that Dr. Frank Plummer and his staff are currently undertaking and/or planning related to AIDS, my thoughts invariably flash back to my own research conducted on “Behaviour of Lymphocytes in Tissue Culture” in the 1970’s at the Kildonan Institute of Gerontology, a private research laboratory that I founded in 1974. Although I have detailed elsewhere the history of this private non-profit research centre, I would like to  briefly summarize how I acquired the techniques and equipment that I used at this facility over a 15 year period after which the lab was dissolved and the major equipment items were donated to the St. Boniface Research Institute Laboratory.

In 1949 I graduated from the University of Manitoba with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Biology and immediately went to work with the Canadian Department of Agriculture in Edmonton, Alberta. Over the next 6 years I did post-graduate studies, obtaining a M.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of Alberta in 1952, and a doctorate in Cytogenetics and Plant Pathology from the University of Toronto (U of T) in 1955. The following year I returned to Manitoba to enter Medical school, graduating in 1960.

After a year of medial internship at the St. Boniface General Hospital, I was recruited by the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) in Saskatoon to work in their newly established Department of Cancer Research facility. I believe the reason I was hired was that I was a medical doctor with a doctorate in cytogenetics. Dr. Bob Begg was the head of the department and later the Dean of Medicine at U of S. I stayed with the Dept of Cancer Research for 4 years (1961-65).

In June 1965, I was invited by Dr. P.H.T. Thorlakson to establish the Winnipeg Clinic Research Institute Laboratory (WCRIL) at the Winnipeg Clinic and serve as its Medical Director. I believe Dr. Thor - as he was affectionately called - thought I was an ideal candidate: an M.D. with a Ph.D. in cytogenetics from the University of Toronto and the knowledge and experience gained in tumor biology, especially in tissue culture methodology, during my four years with the Dept of Cancer Research.

I ran the Winnipeg Clinic Research Institute Laboratory from 1965 until it dissolved in 1968. In 1974, I founded a private non-profit research facility called the Kildonan Institute for Geriatric Research, later renamed the Kildonan Institute of Gerontology, while running an active medical practice. Here are the stories and the “ifs, ands and buts” of why I established my own private research lab:

  1. One of the reasons I resigned from a tenured job with the Canadian Dept. of Agriculture in Edmonton in 1956 and entered medical school in Winnipeg was to fulfill a dream of doing research and practising medicine.

  2. I found there were politics involved in me trying to expand the cell biology/cytogenetics section of the Dept of Cancer Research in Saskatoon. They would not budget for a DNA cytophotometer - I had to construct my own (see my Publication in Biographic Quarterly). We had Canadian expertise for growing cells in tissue culture in the name of Joe Morgan (his many publications on perfecting tissue culture media which bear his name - TC 90) and yet there was no equipment in the lab to study and record the behaviour of normal and cancer cells in such tissue culture media.

  3. When Dr. Thor approached me and literally gave me the key to set up a private lab in the Winnipeg Clinic, I told him what major equipment I wanted, specifically a DNA cytophotometer and a Sage time lapse cinephotomicrophy apparatus to study the behaviour of human cells in tissue culture under a microscope, and Dr. Thor agreed! I was very enthusiastic.

  4. We moved our family from Saskatoon to Winnipeg in June 1965. I forfeited my holidays as well as the opportunity of going to Camp Borden to qualify for my majority in the Militia. I transferred with me living cultures from Saskatoon to Winnipeg and kept them alive with weekly change of the growth media, often going into the lab on weekends and holidays. Within a few months I had a functional lab and was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Anatomy and in the school of Graduate studies at the University of Manitoba. I budgeted for a technician and the following summer 2 medical students (Diane Biehl and ? Yue) began their B.Sc. Med. degrees which they completed successfully the following summer (1967) . Their theses are in my library and of course at the University of Manitoba.

  5. With the dissolution of the Winnipeg Clinic Research Institute Laboratory in 1968, I suddenly found myself  unemployed. My applications to thirteen universities and research institutes were unsuccessful, and with a growing family of three kids I had no choice but to become a family physician. Fortunately I had completed a rotating internship so getting a Manitoba licence was not difficult. Also by joining the River Medical Group - including doctors Gowron, Ranosky and Hagen - the transition was fairly easy.

  6. While with the WCRIL I felt there was a need for cytodiagnostic services and I established the Western Cytogenetic laboratory to provide these services, such as chromosome analysis, DNA cytophotometry for cancer, index of lymphoblastic transformation for allergy and histocompatability with regard to organ transplantation, etc. I carried on his service during my employment with the River Medical Group. It would appear that the patient load and the increase in new patients was not sufficient to support a fourth doctor. Also the remuneration was not that great. I was only getting a monthly salary of $1,000 - insufficient to support a growing family.

  7. So I searched for another clinic and in 1969 joining doctors  Buchok and Matwichuk at the McGregor Medical Centre where I found myself very busy. Indeed probably too busy. As usual doctors move from clinic to clinic not because of personal problems but rather because of financial ones. After 2 years, I left the clinic and went to work in Joe Kagan’s clinic on the corner of Selkirk Avenue and McGregor Street, called the North End Family Medical Doctors. Actually Joe Kagan had an office downtown in the Medical Arts Building and I was the family physician running his Selkirk office. Originally Dr. Joe had bought the practice from Vic Millan who did post graduate studies in Radiology and went to the States. The Medical records were immaculate. I recall one file which had a self addressed envelope (6 cent stamp) inside of which there was an invoice for an appendectomy for $120.00. I think the invoice was dated 1966.

  8. My medical practice at Selkirk and McGregor was really growing. There was a building for sale in Elmwood (Wright’s Carpet). It seemed the ideal location for a medical office. I bought the building in 1972. Now I had two offices and communicated between them with extension phones. Recruitment of doctors for the Selkirk office was challenging due to the diverse patient population in the area, many with high needs. I finally was able to get Stan Szykowski. He had been in practice in the rural area of Beausejour and wanted to move to the city. He seemed satisfied with the financial arrangements, the details of which I can not recall. However, unknown to me was the fact that he was really using my office for the recruitment of patients. One day when I was alone in the office, I went to his desk to see if he had any samples of a certain medication which I wanted to give to the patient I was examining. When I opened the drawer to my amazement I found index cards with the names of patients from our office. Sometime later Stan left me to join Dr. Choptiany on Inskter Blvd (in the Hartford Drugs Bldg). 

  9. The next doctor I recruited was Dr. Helen Frye. She was a recent Ontario graduate who had only worked in the emergency in the province of Ontario. I helped her build up her practice by diverting new patients to her from my patient list. I was surprised when I arrived at the office one morning (rather unexpectdly to find Dr. Frye there planning to remove many of the   medical records of patients . Her departure from the office was a real shock but was resolved without legal action

  10. To get back to movies. I will be talking with Dr. Grant Pierce director of the St Boniface Research Center on April, 29,2010 hoping for some advice and probably solutions to my collection of movies as well as other projects with the donated equipment.

  11. This short video clip is a portion of my library of over 30,000 feet of 16 mm mainly color film that I produced at the same time I was also seeing patients in my busy general practice at 411 Union Ave. in Winnipeg

Semeon B. Hrushovetz.Ph.D. M.D.



Reflections on a Career in Medical Research