Burton and Stiller to be inducted into Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dr. A.C. Burton, founder of the Department of Medical Biophysics and Dr. Calvin Stiller, transplantation pioneer, have been named as 2010 inductees for the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

They are among six individuals named to the Hall for 2010 and will join 76 laureates who have previously been inducted for pushing the boundaries of knowledge to improve human health.

Dr. Alan Burton began his career as a high school physics teacher before immigrating to Canada at the age of 23 and becoming a graduate student in physics at the University of Toronto. Considered a founding father of modern biophysics and a pioneer in interdisciplinary health research, Dr. Burton was a brilliant scientist and a superb raconteur who had a profound and lasting effect on those he encountered.

Dr. Burton's Ph.D. work, including the heating of electrolytes by microwaves (then of great medical interest), marked his entry into the world of biology. He pursued postdoctoral studies at the University of Rochester, NY (1932-1934) and the University of Pennsylvania (1934-1939), and returned to Canada after the outbreak of World War II.

In 1945, Dr. Burton was recruited to the University of Western Ontario where he founded the first Department of Biophysics in a Canadian medical school and led the Department from 1948-1970.

Awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions during the war, Dr. Burton served as President of the American Physiological Society (1956), Biophysical Society (1960) and the Canadian Physiological Society (1959). He was honoured with the Gairdner Foundation International Award for Cardiovascular Research (1961) and has received two honourary degrees. In 2008, the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western named their CFI-funded biophysics laboratory the Alan C. Burton Laboratory for Vascular Research in his honour.

Dr. Calvin Stiller's magic touch as a builder pervades every phase of his career. A physician, scientist, administrator, policy innovator and entrepreneur, Dr. Stiller developed one of the most dynamic organ transplant programs in the nation and championed countless other initiatives that have enriched research enterprise in Canada. He is called a visionary with organizational genius.

Dr. Stiller was Canada's major voice in organ transplantation during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s when the field transformed from a risky experimental undertaking to a reliably successful venture. It was Dr. Stiller who, in the late 1970s, obtained the promising new drug Cyclosporine and organized its first multi-centre clinical trial in kidney transplantation in North America, creating the foundation for subsequent studies that put Canada on the world stage.

Cyclosporine remains today as the drug of choice to combat tissue rejection after transplantation. He was responsible for the controversial but groundbreaking research that showed that cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant, could halt the progression of Type 1 Diabetes - demonstrating that it was an immune disorder.

In a lifetime, an individual might be successful in creating one institution or program. Dr. Stiller has been the architect of many, including The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Robarts Research Institute, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, MaRs, and the Stiller Centre.

From 1984 to 1996, he established and led the Multi-Organ Transplant Service (MOTS) at London Health Sciences Centre's University Hospital, the first of its kind in Canada and one of the first in the world. During this time, Dr. Stiller had a remarkable run as a crusader for organ donation and the organ donor card, and popularized, if not coined, the term "Gift of Life."

Convinced that there was a serious lack of capital available to Canadian bioscientists, he honed his idea of involving the private sector in stimulating a real Canadian-grown life sciences industry. Accordingly, he built four venture funds - the largest being Canadian Medical Discovery Fund - that served as the catalyst for biotechnology in Canada and developed early-seed investments in discoveries coming out of universities.

A recipient of numerous prestigious awards and honours, Dr. Stiller is a Member of the Order of Canada (1995) and the Order of Ontario (2000), and has received the Queen's Jubilee Award (2002). Recognized for Life Time Achievement by the Canadian Society of Transplantation (2003), he also holds three honourary doctorate degrees, including one from Western.

Other 2010 inductees include:
Dr. William A. Cochrane OC
Dr. Phil Gold CC OQ
Dr. James C. Hogg OC
Dr. Vera Peters OC

The 2010 inductees were selected by an independent committee of prominent leaders from Canada's medical community. "Choosing the recipients from amongst a group of highly-accomplished scientists, care providers and builders of medicine is always a difficult process," said Dr. Alain Beaudet, president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and chair of the Selection Committee.

"All are worthy of our recognition and gratitude, but this year's inductees exemplify the highest degree of distinction through their contributions to Canada's enduring culture of health care excellence."

The Induction Ceremony will be held in Calgary on April 13, 2010.