Turning Pain into Positive Outcomes

After several major joint dislocations and surgeries during his teenage years, at the age of 25 Dr. Ennis was diagnosed with severe Ehler Danlos syndrome.  This is a disease that affects the stability of joints.  Over time the joints become progressively more unstable.  The only thing that can help to hold them in place, is surgery.

Since then, he has had 15 more large joint surgeries—6 to his back, including 2 fusion surgeries, 6 to his knees, and 6 to his hands, with the most recent surgery being in November of 2014.

Then, at the age of 35, Dr. Ennis was struck by another disease. He was diagnosed with Guillain–BarrĂ© syndrome (GBS), causing paralysis of the peripheral nervous system. About 11-to-19 per cent of patients are left with permanent disability. Typically, once a person has the disease, they do not get it again. However, one year after Dr. Ennis’s first episode of GBS, he had a second one. Since then, he has had multiple episodes, leaving him with more pain and fatigue.

In spite of these problems, Dr. Ennis pushed himself through his residency program. It took him longer than others, but he was determined to finish. Initially, he was going to be a child psychiatrist. However, he discovered that when he worked with patients who had pain, he could make good use of his own experience. He began by training with Dr. Eldon Tunks at the Chedoke Pain Program, becoming its director in 1993.  He went on to make significant innovative changes to the program that are still in place to this day.  In 1998 he decided to start his own pain program, using up-to-date research to support the treatment.  The end result is a unique, innovative program that has helped hundreds of people.   Over the years, Dr. Ennis and his staff have developed other programs.  There is the cognitive behavioural exercise program.  This program provides patients with a safe exercise program.  More recently Dr. Ennis began a hypnotherapy program which trains patients in the skill of hypnotherapy for pain control.

Dr. Ennis’ work has been shown on television, radio and film.  He has spoken at conferences and teaching rounds across Canada, in England and Europe.  Most recently, he presented in Florence, Italy.  He is recognized as a world class expert in the area of chronic pain management.  It is expected that his book on hypnotic trance for pain control will be available in the next year.

Dr. Ennis not only maintains his professional practice, but he is one of eleven boat builders in the world who specialize in building high performance ultralight boats. He paints, draws, plays guitar, builds bows for archery and builds guitars. He always tries to have something to do no matter how bad he feels or how low his level of function becomes.  In fact, one of his watercolour paintings was done while he was bed ridden.  This same painting was used on the cover of material sent to physicians across Hamilton, Ontario for an upcoming display of art work.

In spite of feeling unwell every day, with widespread pain, his life still feels meaningful. Because of his experience, he is in a unique position to give his patients hope for a better future. He not only knows about chronic pain because he has studied it, he also lives it every day of his life.


The Ennis Endowment Fund at McMaster University (Fund Number R4170A)

This is a special fund set up by Dr. and Mrs. Ennis.  This has been done in co-operation with McMaster University Medical Centre.  The purpose of this fund is to provide funding to residents in medicine who have an interest in learning more about Chronic Pain Management.  It is to help develop the next Dr. Ennis.  There are two ways that you can give to the fund.

Give Directly to the Fund.  You will receive a tax deductible receipt and Dr. and Mrs. Ennis will match every dollar you give to the fund, dollar for dollar.

Ennis Endowment Fund at McMaster University

The second way is to purchase a print of one of Dr. Ennis’ paintings.  Dr. Ennis is an accomplished artist.   His works have been shown in festivals and art shows.  On this website you can select a print, either digital or giclee and purchase the painting.  These funds (after printing costs) go directly to the endowment fund.  You will be given a receipt for any purchase but you will not be given a tax receipt given that you received something in kind.  Visit the website.  You will enjoy the tour.

Ennis Endowment Fund-Dr. Ennis’ Artwork