Dr. Gerald Warren Hankins MD, B.Sc., FRCS, FRCSC
Dr. Gerald Hankins is a dedicated and compassionate man who shares the best of his talent and spirit with those around him. He has brought distinction to his community, province and country through his work as a missionary doctor and writer and through his commitment to serving others.
Gerald Warren Hankins was born in Calgary, Alberta on October 16, 1923 to Ralph and Gladys Hankins. His parents divorced when he was four, leaving Gladys to raise Gerald and his brother Murray. Without marketable skills, Gladys had great difficulty supporting her two boys, and they struggled through the Depression and the poverty it brought to many. As a teenager, Gerald developed a love of the Rocky Mountains and would often ride his bike from Calgary to Canmore to hike and help out in work parties at the Youth Hostel. It marked the beginning of a lifelong association with, and love for, the town of Canmore.
After graduating from Western Canada High School in Calgary, Gerald attempted to join the war effort, despite being under age. Later, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and after training for aircrew, served as a radio navigator with the Royal Air Force Squadrons 96 and 176 in Britain, India and Burma. In 1943, his airplane suffered engine failure and crashed, leaving Gerald with a severe back injury. It was an event that would serve to transform his life on two important fronts. During his 10-month recuperation in Scotland, Gerald developed an interest in the medical profession. He also experienced a growing sense of faith that would greatly influence his life.
After the war, ended Gerald returned to Canada and began studies at the University of Alberta. On June 22, 1948 he married Alison Matthews. He earned a B.Sc. in 1949 and then a medical degree in 1951. After post-graduate training in Surgery in England, Gerald and Alison settled in Calgary and Gerald established a general surgery practice at the Calgary General and, later, at the Foothills Hospital. Over the years, their family grew to include five children.
The Hankins family was a regular fixture at Calgary’s First Baptist Church. Gerald’s growing faith also began leading him toward overseas service as a medical missionary. In 1966, he took part in a two-week mission to Mexico with the Christian Medical Society but felt it important to wait until the children were grown before undertaking a more extensive assignment.
In 1970 he accepted the invitation to provide vacation cover for his former classmate, Dr. Helen Huston, at the United Mission to Nepal hospital she had established a year earlier. That two-month assignment turned into a commitment to complete a four-year term. Those four years eventually turned into twelve.
Gerald, Alison and their youngest daughter, Jennifer, lived in Nepal from 1974 to 1986 where Gerald performed surgery and taught junior Nepali doctors. After a couple of years experience, he realized there were few, if any, textbooks of practical surgery that would help doctors working in Third World countries. Working under an editor living in Kenya, he and 10 other surgeons contributed to a textbook called Primary Surgery. It became a massive project that took five years to complete. The end result was Primary Surgery Vol 1 & 2, an invaluable and eminently practical resource that continues to see frequent use in Third World hospitals. While Dr. Hankins is humble about his contributions to the work, he served as one of its key contributors.
The Hankins returned to Canada in 1986. In 1987, and again in 1989, Gerald completed short medical relief assignments in Inuvik, N.W.T. He retired from active medical practice in 1990, having set his sights on a new career. His years working on the surgery textbook had sparked a love of writing.
In 1992, he published the biography of Dr. Helen Huston and then followed up with biographies of three other distinguished Albertans: Dr. Arthur Jenkyns, Dr. Otto Schaefer and Dr. Gary McPherson. All four had received the Order of Canada. A fifth work on Calgary’s Mustard Seed Street Ministry followed in 2004. He has also written numerous articles, poems and stories. Gerald Hankins’ contributions to the province extend beyond his medical service and his work to share the stories of remarkable Albertans. Over the years, Gerald has offered his energy and support to a number of organizations, including Physicians for Global Survival, the Mustard Seed Street Ministry, CAUSE Canada, King’s Fold and the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. He and Alison also support the Dr. Fred G. McNally scholarship at Western Canada High School and the E. Catherine Barclay scholarship at the University of Calgary.