Generations of generosity


For Dr. John Hutton Walker, MD’43, and his son, Dr. Paul Moore Walker, MD’73, a medical degree was a launching pad to a successful career in surgery. Now, their family foundation is giving back by investing in future surgical scientists.

At the height of the Second World War, John Hutton Walker, MD’43, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps immediately after graduating from medicine. An accelerated program allowed him to enlist at the height of the war when physicians were in high demand on the front lines.

On orders of embarkation, Walker married fellow Western graduate Betty Louise Moore, BSc’41. After the war, he returned to London, Ontario and became a prominent surgeon. With Betty’s support, he helped many medical residents and their families through their training in the following years.

Thirty years later, Dr. Paul Walker, MD’73, followed in his father’s footsteps across the commencement stage at Western.

“I aspired to be a doctor from the time I was about six,” he said.

Spurred onward by winning a prize in surgery at graduation, which he credits for giving him a “truly excellent medical education,” he moved to Toronto to complete a fellowship in surgery.

He eventually filled a series of highprofile administrative roles: Surgeon in Chief and Vice President of the Surgical Directorate of the University Hospital Network, and Director of the Intensive Care Program at the University of Toronto. And while two generations of Walker family physicians leveraged their education at Western to become successful surgeons, Paul decided to forge a more unconventional path than his father by splitting his time between clinical care and research.

After earning his PhD, he conducted basic research in the area of cellular injury, eventually bringing a related therapeutic invention to a company called Spectral Medical Inc. that combines diagnostics and therapy to improve the outcomes of patients with sepsis.

A family calling

John and Betty Walker created the Walker Family Foundation with a vision for investing in the success of others. Before they died, they passed the baton to their four children: Paul Walker, Janice Bostock, BA’69, Elizabeth (Libby) Walker, BSc’80, and William (Will) Walker; all of whom serve as trustees of the Foundation. Today, the four siblings and their children play an active role in supporting global charities and institutions focused on education and health care.

“The Foundation has given me the opportunity to engage with my adult children to discuss world issues and potential areas that our funds could best be used,” said Will.

In recognition of the doors of opportunity Western University opened for them, the family funded the creation of the Walker Surgery Research Day Award with a gift of $27,000 in 2019.

The Award is distributed annually at the Department of Surgery Research Day to a postgraduate trainee in a surgical residency program with the most outstanding presentation.

“Our family has gained so much from the influence of Western’s educational programs,” said Paul.

His sisters agree.

“My enriching experience of obtaining a degree in English literature was enhanced by my opportunity to be on the swim team. That culminated in being captain of the team and receiving a Purple W,” said Janice.

“I had four great years at Western and finished with a BSc, and physiotherapy degree. I also graduated with a Purple W for being on two winning varsity teams: rowing and downhill skiing. From that, I worked as a physiotherapist for thirty years and met my future husband on a chairlift,” she added.

By establishing the Walker Surgery Research Day Award, the Walker family strives to meet the ongoing need for support for those who aspire to forge a career at the intersection of surgery and research.

“It’s not common for surgeons to conduct research,” Paul acknowledged. “It’s easy for an operating schedule and clinical responsibilities to consume every hour of the day. I had to fight a stigma to carve out time in the lab.”

The Walker family hopes that their generosity will give surgical residents a boost as they prepare to take the next step in their career.

“We believe very strongly in the concept of a surgical scientist,” concluded Paul. “It may not be the most traditional path, but surgical research is critically important to advance our specialty and make a broader impact on improving patient care.”