November / Issue10

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dean Strong reflects on 25 years of research and innovation at the Robarts Research Institute.

Michael J. Fox to speak at Robarts 25th anniversary dinner

Actor Michael J. Fox will be the guest speaker at the Leaders in Innovation Dinner which celebrates the 25th anniversary of Robarts Research Institute at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. The dinner will be held on November 21st at the Best Western Lamplighter Inn and Conference Centre in London. The host for the evening will be Western alumna and CBC News Morning Host Heather Hiscox.

Fox is an accomplished and popular actor, director and author. Born in Edmonton in 1961, he moved to Los Angeles when he was 18 to pursue his acting career. He starred in the television series "Family Ties" and "Spin City," as well as several films including the "Back to the Future" trilogy, "Teen Wolf," and "The American President," to name a few. He is also the bestselling author of three books: Lucky Man (2002), Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist (2009) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future (2010). Last year, He was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada. Fox is married to actor Tracy Pollan and has four children.

Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease in 1991. Since then, he has become an advocate for increased research funding and in 2000, launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. In this exclusive engagement at the Leaders in Innovation Dinner, Fox will share his personal experience which promises to be both insightful and inspirational.

"As we celebrate 25 years of research excellence at Robarts Research Institute, we are very pleased that Michael J. Fox has agreed to be our keynote speaker. He shares our passion for medical research, and we share his belief that we will see cures in our lifetime to some of life's most debilitating diseases, including Parkinson's," says Dr. Michael Strong, Dean of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and Interim Scientific Director of Robarts Research Institute. "It's what we strive for. Even our mission at Robarts speaks to it: accelerating medical discovery. This will be an evening to celebrate our many achievements, going back to Robarts' earliest days when Dr. Henry Barnett discovered Aspirin as a preventative therapy for heart attack and stroke."

The Leaders in Innovation Dinner will pay tribute to Robarts' founders: Dr. Henry Barnett, the late Walter J. Blackburn, Patrick Blewett, the late Dr. Charles Drake, Dr. Ramsay Gunton, Richard M. Ivey, Dr. Calvin Stiller and the late J. Allyn Taylor. As well, this year's J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine will be awarded to Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in recognition of his stem cell research. The prize is supported by Robarts and The C.H. Stiller Memorial Foundation.

Tickets for the Leaders in Innovation Dinner are $250 each, and only 300 are available. Order tickets online at or call 519-661-4285.

Please note that no photographs, video or audio recordings are permitted.

United Way Blitz - October 31st to November 3rd

Last year Schulich Medicine & Dentistry was the top faculty for total money raised at Western, and we managed to do so with only 7% participation. Imagine what we can accomplish this year just by doubling our number of participants.

Get involved and show your support. Here is a list of the events on tap during our United Way Blitz:

Cupcake Day for United Way

Monday, October 31st

Come down to the MSB lobby from 9:30 - 10:30 for your morning coffee break and help support the United Way. $2 for a coffee and a cupcake!

Coffee Day for United Way

Tuesday, November 1st

Hospitality Services will donate 25 cents from every large or extra-large coffee or other hot beverage purchased on campus eateries on November 1st. Schulich will have "celebrity-pourers" at the MSB Tim Horton's (including the Dean!)

Pizza Day for United Way

Wednesday, November 2nd

Join us for lunch; $5 gets you pizza, a drink and a cookie, with all proceeds going to the United Way.Lunch will be served from 11:15 to 1:15 in the MSB lobby, from 12:00-12:30 in the Robarts Atrium, and Research Park staff can pre-order with Mary Peterson. Bring your completed pledge form and be eligible for great prizes including the use of the Dean's parking space, lunches at Michael's, a Schulich blanket and more. 50-50 draw with the winning number posted at 2 p.m. on the Schulich website. Special thanks to Hospitality Services.

United Way Stair Climb - So you think you can climb! (Help Schulich stay on top!)

Thursday, November 3rd

Team Schulich is climbing the stairs at One London Place at 5 p.m. We are currently the top fundraising team with nearly $5,000 already pledged, and Schulich's own Matt Wannan is at the top of the leader board for top individual fundraiser!

Help sponsor or join the team by visiting the United Way Stair Climb website:

November Dean's Newsletter Transcript

"Welcome to this edition of the Dean's video newsletter. It's a pleasure to welcome you here to the Robarts Research Institute. We actually happen to be in my lab within the institute itself. This lab is part of the original building, which is 25 years old now. The original founders for the Robarts Research Institute had a tremendous vision for what they wanted to achieve, and I think only now are we actually starting to see how this is coming to fruition. The ability to take research from the pure cell biology where we look at the basic mechanisms by which disease occurs through to understanding how we apply it to clinical populations is what we consider to be translational research. If we extend that a little bit further, it is how do we change population health? That's something we've talked about a little bit in the past with regards to the focus of the school.

The Robarts Research Institute was ahead of its time in recognizing the need to have a concentrated facility that would allow researchers to come together, both basic scientists as well as clinicians, to answer these critical questions. Over the 25 years that it has been in place, it has become a world leader particularly in areas such as medical imaging, neurosciences, stem cell biology, and transplantation biology. All of these things were founders early on in the course of that. Now if you look down these hallways you are going to see investigators who are working intensively in cardiovascular diseases, looking at how the heart works, understanding new vascular imaging techniques that will allow us to advance even further in stroke management, right beside individuals who are looking at such fundamental disorders such as neurodegenerative diseases and how they are communicated amongst cells or even amongst individuals. It's a vision that I think our founders saw and followed through on. This will be celebrated.

We have the Taylor Symposium and our Leaders in Innovation Dinner coming up on the 21st of November. This is an opportunity to celebrate the excellence of our research here, not only at Robarts but at Schulich and the health sector of the University. That evening will be hosted by Heather Hiscox and the guest speaker will be the actor and advocate, Michael J. Fox.Many of you will know Michael from his acting forays. Depending on how old you are, you are going to remember different aspects of them - but for me it is Back to the Future - that was really the striking one for me. What's happened though over the last 20 years of his life as he has been afflicted with Parkinson's Disease, is that he's become a tremendous advocate for research; he's probably one of the strongest voices we have for understanding basic cellular research and how we apply that to treatment of Parkinson's Disease. When one looks at the type of foundation research that he has, it has a wide breadth of applicability to what we do here at the Robarts Research Institute. So, for the 25th anniversary this is an excellent individual for us to have as a speaker, and I think you are going to enjoy it. Tickets are a hot commodity, however, so you need to get online and get them ordered very quickly (

Finally, I do want to speak to you briefly about the United Way Campaign. This is a campaign that helps serve the underserved in our community. It's a tremendous initiative to which the University takes a lead role. The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry has always been a strong contributor to this: last year we raised over 105,000 dollars towards this initiative. Surprisingly though, it was done with a rather low rate of turnout for it. So what it tells us is that individuals within our faculty give and give generously. Imagine what we could do if more of us did that. So when your card comes around, sign up; you are helping people in the community who are less fortunate and a tremendous deserving initiative. So thank you for considering that."