Why I nominated David Naylor

Last month we held the convocation ceremonies for the 2017 University of Calgary autumn graduates. During the morning ceremony, we also conferred an honorary degree on David Naylor, a respected scientist, scholar and health-care leader.
I noted that university Senator Jocelyn Lockyer, a professor in our Department of Community Health Sciences, spearheaded the nomination for Dr. Naylor. Jocelyn first met David many years ago during an accreditation site visit to the University of Toronto where David served as Dean of Medicine. Her initial encounter with David made a lasting impression.

I asked Jocelyn if she would share her thoughts about why she nominated Dr. David Naylor for an honorary degree. This is what Jocelyn had to say about this great Canadian:

After I agreed to serve on Senate, I learned that the task of every senator was to nominate at least one person for an honorary degree. Hmm, I thought. That is a pretty tall order. Of the people I knew, I had to think about people who had made notable contributions alongside their work, would reflect well on the University, and could provide an inspiring talk at convocation reaching graduates, their families and friends.

David Naylor was awarded an honorary degree during the University of Calgary Convocation on November 10, 2017. Photo credit: Colleen De Neve

David Naylor was awarded an honorary degree during the University of Calgary Convocation on November 10, 2017.
Photo credit: Colleen De Neve

Dr. David Naylor came to mind. I first met David when he was Dean of Medicine and I was at the University of Toronto leading an accreditation survey of the Continuing Medical Education/Continuing Professional Development Office at the University of Toronto in 2002. On-site surveys are done as a team of two people. In addition to documents provided before the visit, the team meets multiple people over two days to ascertain when the unit meets the criteria for accreditation. At the end, the team meets the Dean to discuss findings.

I was particularly concerned about our ability to sum up the results of two days of intense meetings in a cogent fashion. I need not have been anxious. David met us and we entered his Office—which I expected to be large (it was) with magnificent furniture. Instead, there was a small old wooden desk in a corner which appeared to be where David did his work. Reading my face, he quickly told us that the desk had been his father’s. It connected him to his family but also served as a reminder that the role of the Dean and members of the Faculty was to support learning and patient care.

With the help of colleagues in the Cumming School of Medicine, I prepared a nomination for David Naylor. While we noted he had been Dean of Medicine and President at the University of Toronto, our nomination focused on the work he had done for Canadians. We described his vision for a better Canada as expressed through his work leading federal committees that have shaped and are changing both health care and fundamental science funding.

  • In 2003, David chaired the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health following the outbreak of SARS in Canada. That committee’s work was the catalyst and blueprint for the formation of the Public Health Agency of Canada, an agency whose activities focus on preventing disease and injuries, promoting good physical and mental health, and providing information to support informed decision making.
  • In 2014, he chaired the Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation. This Report identified five key areas for health care reform including patient engagement and empowerment; health systems integration with workforce modernization; technological transformation via digital health and precision medicine; better value from procurement, reimbursement and regulation; and industry as an economic driver and innovation catalyst. While early days for this work to see fruition, it has informed discussions and thinking on many levels across Canada. Locally, it has helped the Cumming School of Medicine shape its Precision Medicine/Precision Public Health direction.
  • In 2016, he chaired The Advisory Panel for the Review of Federal Support for Fundamental Science. The group’s report was released spring 2017 and is providing momentum for changes in federal funding processes for science and scientists in Canada. Admittedly, significant work remains to be done to convince government to restore funding which has been declining and positions Canada below the top 30 nations in terms of total research intensity.

David did not disappoint in delivering an inspirational address to our graduands. His is a story of immigrant success, parents who came to Canada from different countries, met in Canada, raised 4 children who all achieved PhDs. It is all possible with curiosity, education, focus and commitment. [Oh yes, and he even provided the story of his father’s desk – which has traveled with him throughout his career.]
While Senators are expected to create at least one nomination package, nominations for honorary degree recipients may also come from the community, our graduates, and our faculty. Information can be found on the Senate website.  Think about the amazing people you know!!

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