In memoriam -Dr. Bruce Squires

Thursday, May 12, 2011

At a Canadian Medical Association leadership conference, Dr. Bruce Squires was introduced as a world-renowned leader in medical journals. He laughed at the idea: "overblown," he declared in a recent interview, but allowed that he "wrote about it more than others did." The comment was typical of Squires, who was internationally known for his mentorship, knowledge of journalology and unstoppable sense of humour. Squires passed away early on the morning of May 11, 2011, a day after his 77th birthday.

Squires was editor-in-chief at CMAJ from 1989 to 1996. He began working at the journal in 1984 as an assistant editor, then scientific co-editor (1986), scientific editor (1987) and finally editor-in-chief.

Bruce Squires was born May 10, 1934 in Toronto, Ontario and obtained his BA at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. He went on to obtain his MD (1958) and doctorate in medical research (1962) from the same institution. Following a residency and fellowship in endocrinology at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, he returned to the University of Western Ontario as an assistant professor (physiology), rising to full professor status by 1982.

Writing was an integral part of his career. Six editions of his instructor's manual and study guide, Physiology of the Human Body (Toronto: Saunders 1979), were published and he wrote more than 120 editorials for CMAJ, in addition toauthoring or co-authoring 16 monographs and numerous other publications.

Over the years, Squires was the recipient of numerous honours, including the Douglas Bocking Award at the University of Western Ontario for excellence in medical education and an honorary fellowship from the American Medical Writers Association. And he is the namesake for the CMAJ's Squires Award, which has been given annually to the authors of the journal's best research article since 2008.

In a recent interview with CMAJ for an article in honour of the journal's 100th anniversary, Squires said the biggest change at the journal during his 13-year tenure was the increased pressure to publish quality research. Some of that pressure came from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, which Squires helped found in 1993, and from researchers in Canada, plus the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) document. All this led to a much more systematic appraisal of research and much more stringent rules.

When Squires took over, the journal was still publishing mostly observational studies; the same sort of research it had published since 1911. Former CMAJ editor, Peter J. Morgan "and I had a lot of intense arguments regarding what should be in a manuscript and how to do it," added Squires. His 22 years in academia served him well in bringing about the changes.

Much of Squires' time and energy was devoted to increasing the quality of papers. Whereas other journals editorials weighed in on contentious public policy issues, Squires' chose to clean up his own backyard; his editorials aimed to improve standards of research and reporting. Squires' series, "What editors want from authors and peer reviewers," covered everything from biomedical reviews to case reports, editorials to descriptive studies, biomedical statistics to illustrative materials, which proved immensely popular. Squires also looked at journal ethics and wrote editorials on contribution statements and "quackery," reviewing and editing and editorial freedom.

Squires was an inspired leader in the world of medical journals. In 1995, he was a founder of the World Association of Medical Editors (, which was "put together to help the smaller or less economically advantaged journals, most of which have part-time, volunteer editors with fixed terms and very little experience," Squires said. He was a mentor to editors in 77 countries, before stepping down from the board in 2004. He continued to run its listserv for many years.

After retiring from CMAJ, Squires also continued to work as an adjunct professor (epidemiology and community medicine) at the University of Ottawa (2003-2006) and as a consulting medical editor. Squires returned to the journal briefly in early 2006, but ill health forced him to pass the editor's baton to Dr. Noni Macdonald.

Squires is survived by his wife of 47 years, Patricia, his daughter Patti, son, Bruce (Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, CMA), daughter-in-law Joanne Kennedy and three grandchildren, Grady, Ella and Audrey.

A service will be held in Ottawa on Saturday, May 14, 2011.

courtesy: Barbara Sibbald, CMAJ

London Free Press obituary