Irwin Kahan

1919 - 2015
Hall of Fame 2015

Irwin Kahan was born on a Saskatchewan farm in 1919. After serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, he graduated from McGill University with a social work degree.

In the 1950s, Irwin was an integral member of the research team, headed by Dr. Abram Hoffer, that provided the foundation for the orthomolecular medicine approach. Later, as Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Division, Canadian Mental Health Association, for over a decade he advocated fiercely for the adoption of orthomolecular treatment.

In 1968, Irwin became the founding director of the Schizophrenia Foundation of Saskatchewan, and shortly afterwards the founding executive director of the Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation (now the International Schizophrenia Foundation). With passion and dedication, Irwin worked hard to create, with very few resources and in a hostile psychiatric community, a new organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with schizophrenia. In this endeavour, he worked closely with his wife Fannie Kahan, Abram Hoffer, other CSF board members, and a large crew of volunteers from branches which he had established across Canada. In 1975, the Academy of Orthomolecular Psychiatry elected Irwin as an honorary member "in recognition of meritorious contributions to Orthomolecular Psychiatry."

Irwin’s approach was multi-pronged, focusing on: assisting people at the grassroots level; policy and advocacy at the government level; media communications to promote widespread public understanding of schizophrenia and the orthomolecular approach; and raising professionals’ knowledge regarding orthomolecular practice.

Irwin is the author of the memoir Tending the Tree of Life (Wild Sage Press, 2015), which includes some of his orthomolecular medicine experiences. Irwin’s three decades of putting his heart and soul into advocating for better treatment and conditions for schizophrenics resulted in many lives saved from years of suffering and an increase in the quality of those lives.