Fran Sonshine, National Chair

Jan Blumenstein

Survivor Spirit in a Medical Lab

Jan Blumenstein survived the Holocaust to become one of the most respected and accomplished medical scientists in the world. Despite his significant medical accomplishments, Jan impresses others as one of the most self-effacing people one may come to know.

Born in Nové Zámky Czechoslovakia, Jan enjoyed a carefree life with his older brother, swimming in the local river, fishing, playing soccer, and hunting snakes in the forest. However, life as he knew it came to an end during the war, particularly at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Mauthausen and during the eight months Jan spent in a factory manufacturing anti-aircraft guns for the Nazi war machine.

After liberation, Jan and three others commandeered a wagon and two horses and returned to their hometown. Upon discovering he had no remaining family—both parents and only brother perished in the camps—Jan travelled alone to Toronto in 1948. He learned English, completed high school, and obtained his B.A., M.D., and Ph.D. at the University of Toronto.

Jan began his work life in research at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, concentrating on liver disease and leukemia; he also developed a blood substitute for which he holds several patents. He also maintained a lab at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.

In 1967, Jan took a sabbatical year during which he continued his research at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. After returning to Toronto, he opened a private medical practice.

A Bonsai enthusiast, Jan is one of the original presidents of the Toronto Bonsai Society. However, Jan still finds time to attend to some of his elderly patients and assist in surgery at the Humber Regional Hospital.

With his personal history, brilliant scholarship, and outstanding professionalism, Jan has brought empathy, care, and healing to his patients. He is the proud father of four children, grandfather of six, and great-grandfather of one.