Director Dr. David Patrick ‘passes on the torch’

David patrick

Every person has a right to achieve the best possible health.

Watching scholars, staff and students from different units of the School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) unite thanks to this shared belief has been a career highlight for outgoing director Dr. David Patrick.

Dr. Patrick, who is stepping down this week after five years in the role, said this experience was “simply remarkable”. His advice for faculty, staff and students is to complete the job of pulling together.

“We can take our place as a globally-leading Public Health School if we work together toward becoming an irresistible target for a transformative philanthropic gift.”
Outgoing director Dr. David Patrick

Speaking at a farewell luncheon, Dr. Patrick said his time at SPPH had seen rapid growth, concentrations of study and Indigenous health advancements including the opening of the Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health.

DP9289Moving forward, Dr. Patrick said he had research to write up, courses to teach and that he would represent the B.C. Health Officers Council to the B.C. Healthy Living Alliance. He will also have more time to write new material for his role as trumpet player in two bands.

These musical skills saw an outing in the SPPH Jar and Jam sessions, regularly scheduled jams with SPPH students, staff and faculty who could tickle some ivories or rock a guitar. “We’ve got some capable musicians around the School. Where else could I have dressed up like John Snow for a gig?”

The wider community should know that the School had already made a big difference in health in B.C. and around the world, he said, including in informing Asian governments of the burden of illness from air pollution, and changing the World Health Organization’s approach to prevention of HPV related cancers. His fondest memories of the School are the infectious joy of working with his students and with newer faculty or newly installed research chairs.

“Fresh ideas and approaches are more than just fun, they revolutionize the way we deal with previously intractable problems.”
Outgoing director Dr. David Patrick

SPPH Professor Emeritus Gary Poole worked closely with Dr. Patrick as the first Associate Director of the School, where he gave Dr. Poole room to try new things and grow in the role. “He brought valuable perspective and humour to the difficult times. And he made me feel appreciated. It was with this kind of support that we were able to do some good things, like creating the Teaching Assignment Committee and introducing some important new elements to our MSc/PhD requirements. I am thankful for David’s sense of belief and commitment during our years together.”

Occupational and Environmental Health Division Head Professor Mieke Koehoorn said the Division Heads had consistently used the word ‘supportive’ to describe Dr. Patrick and his leadership, in their roles as Heads, and of their initiatives, such as merging the School of Environmental Health into SPPH. Other adjectives used to describe his leadership included ‘collaborative’, ‘conciliatory’, and ‘consensus-building, she said. She was thrilled that the School was pursuing undergraduate courses and a curriculum, something that had been talked about for years, but that was finally happening under Dr. Patrick’s leadership.

“To draw a Star Trek analogy, we required Captain Jean-Luc Picard to ‘make it so’.”
Professor Mieke Koehoorn

SPPH Senior Administrator Virginia Anthony said during his time as director, Dr. Patrick had appreciated her input and experience. He had been encouraging in difficult times, particularly when it came to meeting the School’s mandate during challenging financial periods.

Professor Jane Buxton said Dr. Patrick brought people together not just at work but in social settings, such as the Jam and Jar sessions. She appreciated his jokes and efforts to make interactions more lighthearted, she said, such as Dr. Patrick’s bringing a fluorescent green torch to his last faculty meeting to ‘pass on the torch’ of the directorship – which, he said, for health and safety reasons, he was not allowed to light.

Assistant Professor Chelsea Himsworth, who was supervised by Dr. Patrick for her PhD, said he had had a profound impact on her, both personally and professionally. His courage and creativity in taking on Dr. Himsworth, a veterinarian with a project looking at whether urban rats posed a health risk to humans, in recognizing the merits of the project, and of its interdisciplinary nature, steered her own thinking and had influenced her career, she said. And he had been “incredibly supportive” of Dr. Himsworth as a person.

“He’s a very courageous academic and an outside-the-box thinker and risk–taker.”
Assistant Professor Chelsea Himsworth

Dr. Patrick supervised Master of Public Health student Xiaoying Kang (KK) for her practicum this year, working on chronic fatigue syndrome. Ms Kang said she was influenced and inspired by Dr. Patrick’s positivity and creativity towards scientific questions, which motivated her to achieve more. “I believe what I have obtained from this practicum will be an invaluable experience on my way to becoming a true scientist in infectious diseases.”

Dr. Patrick’s last day as director will be Wednesday 31st August, but he will continue as a Professor at the School.