Paul Swyer

Obituary of Paul Robert Swyer

SWYER, PAUL ROBERT M.A, M.D. (Cantab), F.R.C.P. (C), F.R.C.P.(L), D.C.H., (1921 – 2019), neonatologist, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, passed away peacefully, fulfilling his final wish to die at his home, on July 8, 2019.  Paul leaves his beloved wife and best friend of 73 years, Fernande (née Rumbaut) and two loving daughters, Sandra (Dennis) and Michèle (Senechal).  He will be mourned by son-in-law Alan Dennis and grandchildren, Jonathan Senechal, Elijah Senechal, Jessica Dennis (Boucher), Jeremy Dennis and Gregory Dennis as well as three great grandchildren.

Paul was born on May 21st, 1921 in London, England, the only child of the late Dr. Robert Swyer and Kathleen Swyer (née Rodwell).   After attending Bedford School, he entered Cambridge University just as war was breaking out in 1939.  Graduation with a medical degree followed in 1943, after which he was enrolled in the RAMC and landed in France in June, 1944.  Paul was a medical officer in the front-line field ambulance clearing stations with the advancing Allied troops in the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, known as the Polar Bear Division. These troops fought their way across France, Belgium, Holland and finally, into Germany.  His division became part of the First Canadian Army towards the end of 1944.  During the grim winter of 1945 Paul forgot these hardships having met the love of his life, Fernande, at a liberation ball in Belgium in 1944.  They were married in June, 1947.

After the war, Paul specialized in paediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children Great Ormand Street, London England, and then emigrated to Canada in 1952.  He joined the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) in Toronto in 1953 and set up the first intensive care unit for sick newborns in 1961.  Paul became a full professor at the University of Toronto in 1975. During the 1970’s, the 7G unit at HSC became a model upon which worldwide Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) were developed.  Paul influenced the international scene further through his training of many fellows from abroad, and also spent time in China with the World Health Organization in 1988.  Numerous neonatology fellows have been influenced by his knowledge and enthusiasm and learnt from his clinical acumen.  Paul retired from HSC in 1987, but continued to play an active role as one of the founders of the International Perinatal Collegium, and in committee work for the WHO and for the Provincial Ministry of Health (Ontario). 

He will be deeply missed by his family, friends and medical colleagues.

In lieu of flowers, Dr. Paul Swyer has made a wish that donations in his memory, should be made to the SickKids Foundation – Division of Neonatology, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, M5G 1X8.


Private funeral arrangements were made with the Humphrey Funeral Home at 1403 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, M4G 3A8 with a private cremation.  A memorial service and Celebration of Life for friends, colleagues and family will take place at The Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club, 141 Wilson Avenue, Toronto M5M 3A3 from 2 pm to 5 pm on Thursday, July 18

, 2019.