Dr. Mark Keegan (MD'94) are alumni of the USask's College of Medicine.  Dr. David Keegan (MD'64) and Dr. Mark Keegan (MD'94) are alumni of the USask's College of Medicine.
From left: Dr. Mark Keegan (MD '94) and Dr. David Keegan (MD '64), pictured at the College of Medicine's Highlights in Medicine Reunion in Saskatoon. Photo by Dave Stobbe.

The Keegans: One family’s generational impact on medicine

In the alumni ranks of the College of Medicine, certain narratives stand out, not only for the achievements earned, but for the familial bonds that intertwine graduating classes.

By Kelsey Kougiya, Alumni Relations
Dr. David Keegan (left) and son Dr. Mark Keegan together at Mark's convocation ceremony in 1994. Submitted photo.

The story of father Dr. David Keegan (MD’64) and son Dr. Mark Keegan (MD’94) exemplifies such a legacy; as each are proud University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Medicine alumni, renowned physicians, and distinguished educators. 

In reviewing their life journeys, shared values emerge that paint a vivid portrait of dedication to the medical profession and a lifelong connection to the University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Medicine.  

David Keegan’s path to medicine was not influenced by his parents, although they strongly supported university education. Instead, it was a culmination of personal experiences. At the age of two, David was placed in the isolation ward of Moose Jaw’s regional hospital. Under the care of internist Dr. Fred Heal, David recovered from Western Equine Encephalitis and began a lifelong interest in healthcare. Although he doesn’t remember Heal from this experience, they met a few years later.  

David’s journey took him from Saskatchewan to the USA and back, guided by the advice of his healthcare heroes and driven by a desire to make a meaningful impact in his community.  

“It was Griff McKerracher who guided me to psychiatry and training in Boston. In the year I was finishing my residency, he had a heart attack and passed away, and so I was never able to thank him for getting into such a great career,” says David.  

His distinguished career included 33 years as a USask faculty member, many of those years as Head of the Department of Psychiatry. In addition to his administrative work, he is renowned for his research and his expertise in the early diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of patients with psychosis. He has received many national and international awards for his work. The legacy of healing has continued to flourish throughout Keegan’s family, with his wife Carolyn's nursing career and their children's diverse roles in community health and wellness. Their daughter Laura's pursuit of social work and daughter Heather's career as a dietitian underscore a shared commitment to the wellbeing of others. Yet, it is son Mark who has followed most closely in his father's footsteps, forging a remarkable career path of his own.  

“I didn’t push Mark into medicine, he did that on his own. Frankly, I’m not sure I was a great role model; most would call me a workaholic. Looking at my kids and my relationships with them, I think they’ve all forgiven me for the things I missed because of work when they were growing up,” says David.  

Dr. Mark Keegan's trajectory, marked by academic excellence and clinical expertise, mirrors his father's dedication to medicine. From his early days at the USask College of Medicine to his current position at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, Mark has distinguished himself as a leader in neurology, particularly in the field of multiple sclerosis (MS).  

“I was always interested in the brain and neurology. When I came here [Mayo Clinic], there was just one fellow per year in neuroimmunology. Now we have two fellows in multiple sclerosis and in autoimmune neurology. So, the field has expanded, and with four fellowship trainees per year, it has been very successful and it’s very important to continue this tradition,” he says.  

The bond between father and son exceeds family ties with roots in shared values and mutual respect. David's pride in his son's accomplishments is palpable when he recalls events that led to their coinciding milestone reunions.  

“The coincidence of our reunion years is special. I have gotten to know many of Mark’s classmates. I was the head of the department in 1991, so the college’s other faculty members were most involved, but I did teach Mark’s class in clinical diagnosis. I knew them as students, then as residents. Carolyn and I have always had fond memories of his classmates. They’re a good group,” says David. 

Their shared passion for medicine is matched only by their devotion to family, evident in Mark’s phone calls home to Saskatoon every Sunday and the importance of a home cooked meal.  

“Carolyn is the cook of the family. Growing up, Mark always needed to have dinner on time. Now as an adult, he’s the one who helps with dinner in his house. I now cook steaks on the barbeque. I don’t muster the kind of energy for baking, but I can go along with pork chops, rice, that sort of stuff,” says David. 

As they reflect on their respective journeys and the evolution of medical education, the Keegans reflect on their time as med students, recalling fondly the close-knit communities of peers they forged during their studies, emphasizing the importance of camaraderie between classmates had on each of their paths to success.  

For Mark, it has always been a priority to maintain close ties to his classmates and to regularly recognize the bonds he made while pursuing an MD degree.  

“We had a great bunch of people. Great collegiality and good friends. I think that's what I remember best. Obviously, we had excellent instruction and mentorship, but I remember most fondly the friendships we made,” he says.  

With a shared sense of optimism for the future of healthcare, the Keegans’ unwavering commitment to healing and to community will serve as a pinnacle example of what it means to be a College of Medicine alumnus. 

The narrative of the Keegans is a story of how two lives, intertwined by a common calling can leave an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of those they touch—whether from within the family you are born into or the connections you create in and beyond the USask College of Medicine. 

Congratulations to David on his sixtieth, and to Mark on his thirtieth College of Medicine class reunions.