New book recounts British Columbia medical school’s remarkable journey


A conversation with the authors Drs. John Cairns, David Ostrow and Gavin Stuart.

Since the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine opened its doors to its first 60 medical students in 1950, it has become a world leader in medical education and health sciences research and is home to one of the best medical schools in the world.

But the creation of the Faculty of Medicine was threatened from the start.

In the new book Dreamers, skeptics and healers, authors John and Wendy Cairns, David Ostrow and Gavin Stuart recount the remarkable journey of the first 70 years of medical school, recounting its trials, tribulations and triumphs, and celebrating the many visionaries, leaders, faculty and students who have paved the way for its success.

We spoke to the authors about the inspiration for their book, what they learned about medical school along the way, and their predictions for the next 70 years.

What was the inspiration for writing this book?

Wendy cairns

JC: In the late 1990s, shortly after I became Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, my wife Wendy Cairns came up with the idea of ​​writing the history of adversity and the ultimate success of the Faculty. Over the years, she accumulated boxes of documents from the rich archives of UBC and collected documents and memorabilia from influential people who had played a role in the first fifty years of the Faculty.

When Wendy passed away in 2018, Gavin Stuart, who succeeded me as dean, and David Ostrow, professor emeritus of respiratory medicine at the University of British Columbia and former CEO of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, joined in. join me to make this story a reality.

It has been a great trip.

What is behind the title, Dreamers, Skeptics and Healers?

Gavin Stuart

GS: The title reflects the fact that our book tells the story of the key players in the Faculty: the visionaries who dreamed of establishing a medical school in British Columbia, the skeptics who resisted or had doubts, and the many school graduates who left to care for and improve the lives of patients and our communities.

The slogan of the book –The History of British Columbia Medical School[…]is equally important and reflects the fact that this is not a UBC Vancouver story, but a story about the whole province. From its inception, there was a province-wide vision for the medical school. This vision was nurtured and ultimately led to the innovative and distributed model of medical education that we have today, with learner training in all corners of the province. By making genuine connections with diverse communities in British Columbia, UBC graduates are inspired to settle where they learn, improving access to care and health for patients and their families. .

While researching and writing this book, what surprised you or what did you discover about Faculty that you did not already know?

John cairns

JC: For me, it was a revelation to discover the origins of the Faculty and of certain visionary players, like Claude E. Dolman.

Dolman was a brilliant young microbiologist, who had been an assistant in Alexander Fleming’s lab at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London, when the discovery of penicillin was made. After immigrating to Canada and moving to Vancouver in 1935 to assume the role of Head of the Department of Bacteriology and Preventive Medicine at the University of British Columbia, Dolman began to draft plans for the early years of a new medical school – an initiative that would lead him to become an actor in the controversial beginnings of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.

What is your favorite page in the book?

David Ostrow

DO: My favorite page is 162, which shows a map of the Faculty of Medicine’s network of education and training sites across British Columbia, and shows how integrated this school is within the province. With over 80 training sites, ranging from Abbotsford to Armstrong and Parkville to Prince Rupert, UBC truly has a province-wide program – which was also the first of its kind in Canada.

GS: For me it’s page 168, with the photo of the entrance sign at Port McNeill & District Hospital on Vancouver Island. The sign proudly displays the UBC Faculty of Medicine logo, indicating not only the presence, but the contribution of our learners and faculty.

JC: I love the historical images on page xviii of what the UBC campus looked like in 1927, and comparing it to later images of medical school in 1950 and the Life Sciences Institute, which opened. in 2004. It’s really amazing to see where we come from. , and where we are now.

What do you think the next 70 years might contain? What’s the next step in healthcare?

GS: Going forward, I think the delivery of health care will become much more people-centered. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge wake-up call, and I think we will put a lot more emphasis on population health and the social determinants of health in the future.

Learn more and order a copy of Dreamers, skeptics and healers here.

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