His studies in medicine at the Université de Montréal
In 1924, having finished his studies at the Collège de Valleyfield and obtained a bachelor of arts degree, he registered as a student in the faculty of medicine at the Université de Montréal. From that moment on, he would pursue his fight against this « tueuse de maman » (mother killer), tuberculosis.
In June, 1930, after 5 years of study and work, he was finally awarded his doctor’s diploma. But there was still a long way to go in order to realize his dream of doing research. In order to improve his knowledge of the basic sciences, he enrolled immediately in a one-year program to obtain certificates in biochemistry, physical chemistry, and mathematics.
1931: An encounter that shaped his career
« One day, as I was talking with the physiology professor, Dr. Elie Asselin, he said: “If you want to find a solution to tuberculosis, you won’t find it with chemistry, but with microbiology. » Two days later I put my destiny in the hands of the Dean of Medicine of the Université de Montréal, Dr. Télesphore Parizeau, who welcomed me with open arms. He helped me get a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation so that I could go and study in the United States.»
Dr. Télesphore Parizeau had himself studied at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.
In the thirties, Quebec was unable to offer a more complete education to its graduates. The young Dr. Frappier had to look elsewhere – to the place where the development of science was beginning to accelerate – in order to acquire the knowledge he needed to attack tuberculosis.
His studies at the University of Rochester
In the early 1930s, a grant from the Rockfeller Foundation opened doors for him in the American laboratories. Armand Frappier went to the University of Rochester, a rich and well-equipped establishment, financed by Kodak, to study microbiology. Compared to the Université de Montréal which was poor and decrepit, and where research was poorly developed — the contrast was enormous. Instead of being discouraged, Armand Frappier told himself that he would have a stimulating challenge in order to improve things when he returned home! During this learning period in the United States, he interned in the microbiology laboratories of several renowned researchers, many of whom were staunchly opposed to the BCG vaccine.
His trip to the Institut Pasteur
The BCG vaccine, developed and perfected at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, was the first live weakened vaccine to be used. The Americans, led by Dr. Petroff, were unenthusiastic about its widespread use. They feared that, given time, the bacillus would regain its virulence (its power to cause the disease). Even after decades of being used in total safety, the fear of the BCG vaccine persisted in the United States.
Dr. Petroff, a great opponent to the use of BCG, died of tuberculosis. Dr. Frappier trained in his laboratory in 1932. Dr. Frappier trained in his laboratory in 1932.
When Dr. Frappier arrived at the Institut Pasteur, the BCG vaccine had been in successful use for eight years. Dr. Nègre’s experiments, after those of Calmette and Guerin, had proven the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, and had shown that the Americans’ great fear of seeing the virulence reappear was unfounded. The Institut Pasteur was at the very heart of microbiology and of the fight against tuberculosis. This was quite an experience for Dr. Frappier, because this was when he learned to produce the BCG vaccine. Convinced that he finally had an efficient weapon against tuberculosis, Dr. Frappier returned to the country with very precious baggage: a flask containing a strain of the famous BCG!
« We arrived in Montreal on January 1, 1933, after a transatlantic crossing during which the Carinthia met such a storm that water was entering by the windows in the living room. »
« During these studies abroad, I had not only opened my mind, but I also became more familiar with the experimental method. I had become friends with my professors and they had promised me their help. I followed their advice and kept in touch with them until their deaths. I brought a strain of BCG from the Institut Pasteur back with me.»