Remembering a Canadian trailblazer and an Icon of
Trinidad and Tobago
With the passing of Dr. Stephen Vernon Arthur Blizzard on June 9, at the Lakeshore Hospital in Ottawa, this country lost a dedicated servant whose exceptionalism in the field of Aviation Medicine identifies him as a true Canadian trailblazer.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1928, Dr. Blizzard was a certified veterinarian before moving to Canada where he earned his medical degree and as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, earned his wings as a jet pilot before moving into the RCAF Institute of Aviation Medicine R.A.F. Institute of Aviation Medicine and the Royal College of Physicians of London, eventually taking his place among the few to be identified as flying surgeons.
It was that designation that earned Dr. Blizzard the distinction in 1975 of being the first doctor on-site in Kuala Lumpur to coordinate the first airlift of Vietnamese refugees to Canada.
He also distinguished himself in 1975 as the first in the Commonwealth Caribbean to present a paper in the field of aviation medicine. His presentation ‘The Aerial Transportation of Patients,’ remains a reference point up to today.
He was also a licensed commercial pilot.
In his 16 years in the Canadian Air Force as a flight surgeon and jet pilot, Dr. Blizzard was part of the Central Aircrew Medical Board and in the National Defense Medical Detachment. And he elevated through the ranks as a squadron leader, major and deputy commanding officer. He also served as a senior medical officer.
He retired from the military in 1983 but continued to lend his expertise and his experience on aviation medicine to a wide range of national and international bodies, serving as a senior consultant with the Department of Civil Aviation Medicine as well as Transport Canada Marine Medicine department.
His influence was extensive: sitting on the board and serving as president of the International Civil Aviation Medical Association and the Canadian Society of Aerospace Medicine. He also, served with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Advisory Group on Aerospace Research and Development.
Dr. Blizzard, played a significant role in helping to develop standards for civil aviation medical examiners.
Along the way, Dr. Blizzard was awarded with numerous United Nations Peacekeeping Medals, was widely recognized for his achievements and contributions to his field of work.
In 2013, he was one of 60 people and organizations designated Icons of Trinidad and Tobago, taking his place among luminaries such as Nobel Prize winning novelist, VS Naipaul, politicians, Dr. Eric Williams and Dr. Rudranath Capildeo, academic, author and human rights activist, CLR James and the great calypsonian, Dr. Slinger Francisco (The Mighty Sparrow.)
He also received the Dr. Wilbur Franks Award, Canada’s highest honor in aviation medicine, and a Harry Jerome Award for Excellence in Health Sciences
Also he stood as one of only 250 people worldwide as a member and selector of the International Academy of Aviation and Space Medicine.
A true, true Trini, Dr. Blizzard, who continued to play his soprano pan well into his 80s, maintained strong connections with the people and politics in Trinidad and Tobago.
He spoke extensively about his return to T&T and the time spent there between 1968 and 1976. He established a medical practice and extended his flying expertise to others as chairman and flying instructor at the local light airplane club.
Above all, Dr. Blizzard will be remembered for his dedication to his family. He walked the journey of life for 63 years with his wife Merle, a trained midwife and nurse and his children, Roberto, Gloria and Carlos.
A celebration of his life was held in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 17.