Alumni of Distinction
Throughout the past six decades, the 2018 Alumni of Distinction recipients have impacted the lives of people in Canada and around the world through their life-long commitment to discovery, innovative care, leadership and community service.
By Jesica Hurst, BA’14
Young Alumni Award
Dr. Teresa Chan, MD’08
"If you can tap into someone’s innate motivations and align your purpose with their calling or interests, that can help you become a better leader by helping you recruit a more motivated, loyal team.” —Dr. Teresa Chan, MD’08
Dr. Teresa Chan is a rising star in medical education. After graduating with the Medicine Class of 2008, she quickly became a leader in her work as a researcher, emergency medicine physician in Hamilton, and a faculty member at McMaster University.
She is the mastermind behind the development of McMaster’s Modular Assessment Program, which is a programmatic, competency-based workplace assessment program for emergency medicine. She is also actively involved in the creation of innovative emergency medicine continuing education experiences and faculty development initiatives.
Dr. Chan believes the key to being a successful leader at any point in your career is the ability to understand and inspire people. “If you can tap into someone’s innate motivations and align your purpose with their calling or interests, that can help you become a better leader by helping you recruit a more motivated, loyal team,” she said.
Dr. Chan explained she is most humbled about receiving this award because of the young professionals who took the title before her.
“This is a great honour and I am extremely humbled to be a part of this amazing group of people,” she said. “I cannot wait to see who will come next! It is exciting to hear what people are doing around the world after graduating from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.”
Excellence in Basic Science Research Award
Eric Arts, BSc’90, PhD
"All of my success in research and as faculty has been seeded by my education and experience at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.” —Eric Arts, BSc’90, PhD
Eric Arts is a powerhouse in the world of basic science research. He is an internationally renowned scholar with career accomplishments encompassing more than 130 peer-reviewed articles and reviews in high-impact journals; invites to give more than 200 lectures around the world; and funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the American Foundation of AIDS Research.
Arts’ seminal discoveries have direct application to many areas of HIV/AIDS research. His work focuses on HIV-1 with regards to drug discovery and resistance, basic virus replication, pathogenesis, evolution and interaction with host immune response.
“As my former mentor Mark Wainberg often said to me when I was down about some sort of rejection, ‘you can have all the smarts in the world but if you don’t persevere you will never succeed in science,’” Arts said. “At 51 years old, I have been involved in HIV research for 31 years. I am lucky that I did not waiver in knowing what I wanted to do in life.”
Arts is humbled and honoured to receive an award for something he has always loved to do, from a university that has always inspired him. “All of my success in research and as faculty has been seeded by my education and experience at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.”
Community Service Award
Dr. Toni Zhong, MD’02
"As surgeons, we have the unique skillset that is transferrable, so it is our responsibility to use those skills in a positive and meaningful way.” —Dr. Toni Zhong, MD’02
Dr. Toni Zhong has always gone above and beyond what is expected of her from her patients, colleagues and local and international community. She has made it her mission to ensure all women in Ontario and beyond have access to breast reconstructive surgery.
Through her work with Women for Women International, she has spearheaded humanitarian surgical missions to developing countries. She also helped to launch a new international humanitarian initiative at University Health Network, which makes it possible for its surgeons to provide surgeries in Canada to patients from the developing world.
“As surgeons, we have the unique skillset that is transferrable, so it is our responsibility to use those skills in a positive and meaningful way,”
Dr. Zhong said. “I go overseas to perform global surgery because there are women and children in need of our surgical intervention who otherwise would not receive this type of surgery.” Dr. Zhong explained she is still shocked she is receiving this award, as she feels fortunate she is able to do what she does every day.
“I think that most of us contribute to our community, and giving back is just something we do without much of a second thought,” she said. “Even after challenging days, I remind myself that I was able to help someone in their most vulnerable situation, and that is a rare privilege.”
Alumni of Distinction Award — Dentistry
Dr. Olaf Plotzke, DDS’77
"Now that my colleagues have gathered and decided that I should be so honoured is, dare I say it, the icing on the cake.” —Dr. Olaf Plotzke, DDS’77
Since graduating with the Dentistry Class of 1977, Dr. Olaf Plotzke has served the dental profession and his community with distinction and honour.
Community dentist, faculty member and volunteer, he has a passion for the treatment and care of children who are born with cleft lip and palate problems. In addition to his work as a lecturer, adjunct professor and course director at Schulich Dentistry, he has served as the Dental Director of the Cleft Lip and Palate team at Thames Valley Children’s Centre, and the Chair and Dental Director of Cleft Palate Teams from 2012 to 2016.
“To be recognized by my peers for doing something that I totally, unequivocally and unilaterally enjoyed and gave me supreme personal and professional satisfaction for so many years seems a bit surreal,” he said. “My years as a paediatric dentist were exceptional in the incredible satisfaction that I derived in working with the most delightful and yet potentially challenging of our society, our children, including the most fragile and vulnerable.”
“Now that my colleagues have gathered and decided that I should be so honoured is, dare I say it, the icing on the cake.”
Alumni of Distinction Award — Dentistry
Dr. Karen Campbell, DDS’82
"You have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many through your day-to-day work with patients. They can bring great enrichment to your life.” —Dr. Karen Campbell, DDS’82
As the first female graduate from Schulich Dentistry to become a Chief of Dentistry at a university teaching hospital and first female to become the Director of a graduate program in paediatric dentistry, Dr. Karen Campbell is a trailblazer and leader to say the least.
After her husband unexpectedly passed away from cancer in 2009, Dr. Campbell decided to reinvent herself and moved to British Columbia to take on leadership positions and has contributed significantly to the body of dental research and strengthened the ties between medicine and dentistry at BC Children’s Hospital.
“This new start gave me purpose, although it meant going well outside of my comfort zone,” she said. “I had never done anything without my husband there to support me, so this move was the biggest risk I had ever taken.”
When asked what advice she would give this year’s graduating class, she explained the importance of taking time to enjoy working with their patients.
“You have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many through your day-to-day work with patients,” she said. “They can bring great enrichment to your life, but in that you need to be genuine and spend time to learn their stories.”
Professional Achievement Award — Medicine
Dr. Paul Harding, MD’58
"Many exceptional people have received this award before
me, and it is a very humbling experience for me to now share this honour with them.” —Dr. Paul Harding, MD’58
Throughout his career, Dr. Paul Harding has established himself as a national and international leader in perinatal physiology. He has been referred to as the ‘Father of Perinatal Research in Canada’ – a distinction attributed to him for his personal and collaborative research on neonatal thermoregulation, fetal macrosomia in gestational diabetes, and surfactant therapy.
After finishing his medical undergraduate and postgraduate training, he completed his postdoctoral training at Oxford University. He returned to Western University, pursued an active obstetrics and gynaecology practice for more than four decades, and has held the titles of Chair of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Hospital Chief at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, and Associate Dean of Research at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.
Dr. Harding changed the nature of obstetrics academic departments locally, nationally and internationally, and built a strong culture of research within obstetrics.
“I have committed my life’s work to the field of medicine and specifically perinatal physiology. To be recognized for this passion and receive this award from my colleagues is a tremendous feeling,” Dr. Harding said. “Many exceptional people have received this award before me, and it is a very humbling experience for me to now share this honour with them.”
Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer Award
Dr. Paul Polak, MD’58
"Throughout my career, I have always believed it is important to find something you can be passionate about and go all out in the pursuit of chasing it.” —Dr. Paul Polak, MD’58
Dr. Paul Polak has taken a bit of an unconventional path throughout his career. But those unusual twists and turns have allowed him to impact millions of people all around the world.
After graduating with the Medicine Class of 1958, he practised psychiatry for more than 20 years, taking a particular interest in homelessness among veterans and those with mental illness. Upon travelling to developing countries like Bangladesh, his passion extended to the devastating poverty experienced by so many people in rural areas.
Dr. Polak then established International Development Enterprise in 1981, which harnesses the power of the market to empower the rural poor to lift themselves from poverty. This work enabled an estimated 30-million families to escape poverty. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Windhorse International, a for-profit social venture with a mission to develop affordable, safe and innovative products and services for those living in poverty.
“Throughout my career, I have always believed it is important to find something you can be passionate about and go all out in the pursuit of chasing it,” Dr. Polak said.
“I think being able to ask obvious simple questions about big issues in medicine and beyond, and coming up with obvious simple answers, are what it takes to be a successful leader in medicine today.”