Award: Dr. Roberta Bondar receives inaugural trailblazer award

Dr. Roberta BondarDr. Roberta Bondar, MSc’71, Resident Alumna (Neurology), is the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Stephen Blizzard Trailblazer Award from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, recognizing alumni who are blazing a trail in their field and exemplify excellence in education, advocacy and humanitarian initiatives.   

The Trailblazer Award honours the incredible life and career of Dr. Stephen Blizzard, who graduated from the School in 1963. He was dedicated to his dreams and living a life of service as a physician, flight surgeon and military pilot. A pioneer who displayed extraordinary grit and determination, he serves as a strong role model for today’s learners and health professionals.

“In receiving this award named in honour of Dr. Blizzard, a true Canadian aerospace pioneer, I am deeply humbled to share in his name and legacy," said Dr. Bondar. “In addition, he overcame racial prejudice, a role model for me when I was pushing the envelope for gender inclusion in aerospace medicine.” 

The Award was created in 2021 by Dr. John Yoo in consultation with the Blizzard family. The School’s Alumni of Distinction Committee chose Dr. Bondar as the inaugural recipient from a long list of nominees. Unbeknownst to them, Drs. Bondar and Blizzard had met during their careers. And according to the Blizzard family, they were peers who recognized each other as part of a very small group – Canadians who were also specialists in aviation and medicine.

“Our father would have been delighted,” said Gloria Blizzard on behalf of the family upon learning that Dr. Bondar was the 2022 recipient.

Dr. Bondar received her MSc in Pathology from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry in 1971 and returned to complete her residency in neurology with the Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences.

In 1983, Dr. Bondar was selected as a member of the Canadian Astronaut Corps and began her training in 1984. In 1992, she made history aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming the first neurologist and Canada’s first female astronaut in space. 

After her pioneering journey, Dr. Bondar worked to further our understanding of the neurological symptoms of space travel and their connection to neurological diseases on Earth. Her historic voyage also inspired her exploration of the natural wonders of the world as a professional nature photographer. 

She later co-founded The Roberta Bondar Foundation to engage people in conservation by appealing to their curiosity and creativity.

Dr. Bondar has received numerous awards and honours during the course of her career, including the Order of Canada, Order of Ontario and NASA Space Medal. She is also an inductee of the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

With such a distinguished career, Dr. Bondar’s advice to today’s learners: “Pursue the gift of helping others, blaze your own personal trail through a strategy founded on passion and ethics.”