Jay Keystone at his desk with elephants
In a photo in his office for a 2016 UHN News story on his 40-year career in tropical diseases at Toronto General Hospital, Dr. Jay Keystone showed off his collection of elephants gathered during his travels. (Photo: UHN)

It was Dr. Jay Keystone's finest hour.

Fridays. 8 a.m. Toronto General Hospital (TG). For about a quarter century, Dr. Keystone, with a mix of brilliant medical insight, humility and humour, led Tropical Medicine Rounds, a not-to-be-missed 60-minute session where trainees, fellows or residents presented an interesting case or topic in the field.

"This was where people would fall in love with Jay," says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, Infectious Diseases Specialist at UHN and longtime colleague who was also mentored by Dr. Keystone. "He would create this environment where everyone would feel comfortable and at ease. And if you were around him, you couldn't help but laugh."

Dr. Keystone, who in 1976 founded the Tropical Diseases Unit at TG and in 2016 was awarded the Order of Canada for expanding the field of tropical medicine as a clinician and educator, died on Tuesday, surrounded by his family, after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 76.

"He was a mentor to generations of trainees, and a respected colleague, teacher and friend to many," said Dr. Ed Cole, UHN's Physician-in-Chief. "His impact on clinical care has been immense.

"He will be missed."

Dr. Keystone getting Order of Canada
In May 2016, Dr. Keystone, pictured with then-Governor General Designate David Johnston, at the Order of Canada induction ceremony in Ottawa. (Photo: Courtesy Dr. Jay Keystone)

Dr. Keystone graduated from University of Toronto Medical School in 1969, trained in internal medicine and tropical medicine in Toronto, the United States and Europe, then did fieldwork in Africa and South America before arriving at Toronto General to stay.

In a 2016 UHN News story on his career and Order of Canada, he showed his trademark humility.

"I was reading through the list of fellow recipients, and they have done remarkable things!" Dr. Keystone said. "I am very humbled to be receiving this honour.

"I have had a wonderful career."

Former colleagues, students and patients were among the many people paying tribute to Dr. Keystone on social media as well as condolence books included with his online obituary.

"He was just a warm and wonderful and caring person," Dr. Bogoch says. "He was loved by everyone – his patients, his students, his trainees, his fellow faculty and colleagues."

Dr. Keystone's online obituary featured a quote from him about why laughter was good medicine.

"Humour is an important tool in the practice of medicine: in teaching I use it to engage the learner; in practice it creates a relationship between me and the patient that levels the playing field and puts them at ease," he said.

A funeral was held on Wednesday morning. Shiva will take place 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and on Wednesday and Thursday evenings only from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Read more d​etails.

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