McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Three added to health sciences Community of Distinction

Published: November 6, 2009

Three distinguished faculty will be recognized for their outstanding contributions to McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences when their names are added to the Community of Distinction on Friday, Nov. 6.

Dr. Nathan Epstein, a pioneer in mental health, Dr. Alvin Zipursky, world-renowned for his leadership in pediatrics and oncology, and the late Barbara Ferrier, whose work advanced medical education, will have their names added to the distinguished list of honoured alumni, faculty and staff during celebrations in the Ewart Angus Centre from 4 to 5 p.m.

The Community of Distinction honours those who have made distinguished contributions in scholarship, science, the delivery of health care and leadership in medical and health sciences education and research that have brought distinction and recognition to McMaster University and the Faculty of Health Sciences. Plaques of each individual member join a prestigious wall display in the Ewart Angus lobby.

This year’s inductees are:


Nathan B. Epstein

Nathan B. Epstein

Nathan B. Epstein, MD, founding chair of the Department of Psychiatry (1967 – 1975), is recognized throughout the world as a pioneer of family therapy. When he arrived in Hamilton in 1966, clinical psychiatric services were a virtual "wasteland". With his talent for leadership and administration, this charismatic physician successfully de-stigmatized "mental illness" and streamlined many community resources.

He established academic clinical services at St. Joseph’s Hospital and McMaster Medical Centre, developed an outstanding child and family centre at Chedoke Hospital and introduced a highly effective family therapy program based on his own extensive research. Under his direction, the former Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital, now the Centre for Mountain Health Services was developed into a clinical training and academic setting. He established a unique collaboration of psychiatry with academic family practice units where psychiatrists saw patients with family doctors in their offices and taught these faculty and their residents.

Well-liked with enormous energy, Epstein opened a huge window on what psychotherapy was, and was not. Thriving interdisciplinary family health networks in Hamilton are a direct result of his efforts.


Alvin Zipursky

Alvin Zipursky

Alvin Zipursky, MD, founding chair of the Department of Pediatrics from 1966 to 1972 and 1978 to 1981, is world-renowned for his seminal investigations into the prevention of RH hemolytic disease in newborns.

His exceptional leadership, commitment to excellence and passion for learning laid the groundwork for what is now an internationally recognized academic department with outstanding clinician teachers who became the nucleus for McMaster Children’s Hospital. Under his leadership, programs in pediatric hematology/oncology, neonatal intensive care and developmental pediatrics achieved global respect.

During his career, which spans more than 50 years, he founded and chaired the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO), a provincial organization providing support to thousands of young cancer patients and their families. Some of his most important achievements include the creation of a Child and Family Centre, setting up a multi-disciplinary Hemophilia Clinic in Hamilton and the establishment of the city’s first coagulation diagnostic and research laboratory. This facility was central to the development of the internationally recognized thrombosis and hemostasis program led by Dr. Jack Hirsh, former chair of the department of medicine.

Since 2004, he has served as chair and scientific director of the Program for Global Pediatric Research which brings together scientists from around the world to study global childhood health problems.


Barbara Ferrier

Barbara Ferrier

Barbara Ferrier, PhD, a strong advocate for the principle that "personal qualities" are as important in future physicians as good marks, made outstanding contributions to the advancement of medical education at McMaster through her commitment to teaching, enthusiasm for research and expertise in curriculum development.

She earned a PhD in chemistry in Edinburgh, joining McMaster’s Department of Biochemistry in 1972 where she remained a dedicated faculty member long after her appointment as a professor emeritus in 1998. During her career, her scholarly interests shifted from biochemistry to innovations in education. She was the first director of the "preliminary course" — a special "McMaster style" summer course which prepared students entering the MD program who had little, or no, background in biological or behavioural sciences.

An insightful tutor, Ferrier is remembered for her ability to inspire excellence in her students. She contributed to the medical school’s revamped MD COMPASS curriculum which puts greater emphasis on the fundamental mechanisms which impact health. A strong advocate of problem-based learning (PBL), as director of the university’s Arts and Science program, she influenced its inclusion in the program. Her influence reached beyond McMaster to the community and provincial committees.

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