Charles Lightfoot Roman (1889-1961)

Charles Lightfoot Roman was a surgeon, author, researcher and lecturer, and one of the first Black Canadians to graduate from McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine. He became a widely recognized expert in industrial medicine. He was also one of the first Black Canadians to enlist for service in the First World War, and was the only known Black person to serve with the
Canadian General Hospital No. 3 (McGill). Lightfoot Roman was the grandson of James William Roman, who fled enslavement, travelling from Maryland to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Born in Port Elgin, Ontario, Lightfoot Roman spent his boyhood in Bay City, Michigan. After high school, he attended Fisk University in Tennessee, where], he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1910. In 1912, he returned to Canada, where he enrolled in medical school at McGill University. However, with the onset of the First World War, Lightfoot Roman took a break from his studies and in 1915, he enlisted with the Canadian General Hospital (CGH) No. 3. He served 25 months overseas until the Government of Canada ordered that all medical and dentistry students with at least one year of training should finish their studies.
In 1919, Lightfoot Roman graduated as a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery (MD, CM), whereupon he filled several roles at the Montreal General Hospital, including that of house surgeon. In 1921, inspired by an uncle who had lost his leg in a workplace accident, Lightfoot Roman became one of Quebec’s first doctors of industrial medicine, now known as occupational medicine. He was hired as the physician for Montreal Cottons Limited (a division of the Dominion Textile Company) in Valleyfield. Lightfoot Roman dedicated himself to advancing knowledge in that field. For example, he wrote several articles on such subjects as “Severe Industrial Injuries to the Fingers and their Treatment,” published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 1923. He was also a lecturer, speaking across North America on the practice and objectives of industrial medicine. In 1953, Lightfoot Roman was honoured in Los Angeles as a Fellow of the Industrial Medical Association. Perhaps Canadian journalist Nerene Virgin put it best when she summed up the life of Lightfoot Roman with these words:
“His life had been one of service – to his country, his faith, and to his fellow men and women.”

(Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia)