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Jack Micay: combining filmmaking with medicine

By Gerry Posner Ah yes, the Micay Family. Quite a bunch they were and are.

For readers over 50, many will have vivid memories of Athlete’s Wear owned and operated for so many years by the late Nathan ( Nonny) Micay. At its peak, this business was a very successful mail order and retail business in the team uniform and sporting goods field, employing over 100 people. I can picture it on Market Avenue. And of course, one could never forget Nathan’s brother, Archie Micay, a very well known corporate lawyer in Winnipeg and partner in the law firm of Walsh Micay. The name was, as one might suspect, not always Micay, nor McKay, but in fact Micanofsky, as in the original settlers in Winnipeg, Rachel and Morris Micanofsky. Rachel Micanofsky had her own story as she was a Lockshin, another long time well known family in Winnipeg.

Arising from the many grandchildren from Rachel and Morris was and is none other than Jack Micay, the oldest brother of three sons ( Harold and Ira) of Nonny and the late Faye Micay. Jack, in his own way, took the Micay family in directions not before explored. He grew up on Enniskillen Avenue in West Kildonan in a home later donated by his mother Faye Micay to Shalom Residences as a group home. Jack attended Talmud Torah and later Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate to the end of Grade 8. Next, he went to West Kildonan Collegiate before graduating from the then United college.

Jack Micay’s university education was not a straight path. What made the path uneven were his diverse interests and his willingness to stray from the course. What he ended up with ultimately was a BA in Philosophy and a medical degree from the University of Manitoba. But to get there, he indulged his passion for music and the arts. Upon graduation in 1969 with his BA, he went to New York and worked there for a summer as a researcher for a film company. And then, following another love, he travelled in Europe and Israel where he worked on a kibbutz. He had then a command of Hebrew and in fact is now working on rebuilding his Hebrew speaking abilities. He came home in June of 1970 and soon he was hired on at a film company operated by the late, great Douglas Letterman in Toronto as a researcher for a documentary series. One series led to another and Jack’s filmmaking experience grew quickly. Yet with all of this success, Jack was unsure as to what course to follow as he did have the science pre-requisites for Medicine. He applied and was accepted at the University of Manitoba Medical School and so he went there somewhat ambivalently, figuring that “ the system would spit me out.” He was wrong. He did take his last year at the University of Toronto.

Upon graduation, Jack interned at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto. And then, in a forerunner of his future life, Jack split his life between medicine and filmmaking, with lots of travel thrown in. Jack basically would do short term locums in distant Ontario spots and in between, he did freelance shows for CBC. Find me anyone else with that background. Jack did his documentaries for “The Nature of Things” and “The Journal,” often on medical topics. Then Jack decided to upgrade his medical talents and moved for a year to New York to train at a hospital on Long Island in New York.

Now with all of that, Micay still found time to go to Nepal to visit a hospital near Mount Everest -which led to another CBC show featuring Sir Edmond Hillary. Micay thus began a 30-year friendship with Sir Edmund. You could say that Micay did not need to climb Everest, he was already doing his own ascent – just in his work. Micay even filmed in Winnipeg for his series with Sir Edmund on the Sherpas of Nepal. In fact, Micay was able to use his filming career to provide a decent income for himself. As he puts it, “I was sort of following my father’s steps, running my own mail order business selling (his films) to school boards, universities, libraries across the USA and Canada.” It all worked well until the internet destroyed this path. Mickey also was quite involved in creating what might be termed Science Musicals, which were one half hour classroom and educational TV films aimed at high school and university students with the goal to teach them basic science concepts in an entertaining way using humorous animation and songs… just part of the Micay magic.

Jack Micay was a doctor, now retired and a filmmaker, not yet retired. His educational and documentary productions have brought Micay over 45 prizes at film festivals around the world. Some of his more remarkable achievements were the science film world’s richest award as in the Grand Prize at Casa de las Ciencias in La Corona, Spain, not to mention his Grand and Gold Prizes at film festivals spanning the US, Canada, Italy the Czech and Slovak Republics and Bulgaria. This is just the tip of the iceberg insofar as the Micay accolades are concerned. Lest I forget, Jack is the father of three adult children: Nathan, Rachel and Jonathan, all of whom seem to have inherited their dad’s travel bug and one (Jonathan), who is a film maker like his father.

So, you take a kid – as in Jack Micay whose father Nathan was a well known entity in his own right, even though blind, and then have the son establish two careers, both of which he served and continues to serve with distinction (at least in filmmaking). and you have more than a remarkable story. I say it is all worthy of a Jack Micay documentary.

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