McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Dr. Dan’s commitment passed on with new endowed chair

Published: September 27 , 2006
Harriett MacMillan
Dr. Harriet MacMillan receives a standing ovation as she becomes the first recipient of the David R. (Dan) Offord Chair in Child Studies.

By Suzanne Morrison

Children affectionately called him "Dr. Dan," but the world knew him as Canada’s most renowned child psychiatrist who spent his life working to better the lives of young people at risk.

Dan Offord died nearly three years ago, but his passion and commitment to improving the futures of what he called the "casualty class of kids" lives on in one of his proteges, Dr. Harriet MacMillan.

MacMillan, professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and behavioral sciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, today was named the inaugural holder of the David R. (Dan) Offord Chair in Child Studies at McMaster University.

"Dan was such a wonderful mentor to me and to so many other young investigators. The greatest legacy of all will be to encourage a new generation of scientists to carry on in his footsteps," MacMillan said in accepting her appointment.

With Offord’s commitment to excellence, the passion he brought to his work, and his unique devotion to improving the lives of children, MacMillan admitted that as first chair it was "hard to come up with words to express how moved I am."

Dr. Dan Offord, who died in 2003, was known for his passion for his work to help children.

Like Offord, MacMillan is both a clinician and a scientist. As a member and founding director of the Child Advocacy and Assessment Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital, she is considered a Canadian leader in the field of child maltreatment and family violence, working closely with child protection agencies.

The new chair has been funded through a $1 million gift from the Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation with matching support from McMaster University. Its focus will be the child within the family.

Dr. John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, and dean, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, anticipates that as chair, MacMillan’s research will have far-reaching impact.

"Like Dan, Harriet is a dedicated clinician scientist. Her research in this field will have a profound effect on the emotional and physical health of disadvantaged children and her leadership will be instrumental in mentoring a new generation of passionate, devoted medical students," Kelton said.

"Perhaps the most important way to celebrate Dan Offord’s achievements and success is to ensure that his legacy remains strong. The creation of the Research Chair in Child Studies will do just that," said Dr. Peter Steer, president of McMaster Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at McMaster University.

"This endowed Chair will focus on the causes and prevention of children’s mental health problems. It will support studies that assess and treat children affected by the horrors of child abuse or neglect. And it will give hope to those who are most vulnerable in our society."

Dr. Peter Szatmari, director of the Offord Centre for the Study of Children at Risk, praised MacMillan’s appointment as one that will set the standard for generations to come.

"Harriet has spent just about every day of the last 20 years thinking about ways to help children who have suffered from abuse and about how to prevent the terrible toll that abuse takes on the lives of children and youth," he said. "She brings a passion to her scholarship that one rarely sees and that was inspired in her by Dan’s commitment to the same kinds of problems and solutions."

The Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University grew from Offord’s work with children at risk. Today, the centre’s research is dedicated to improving the quality of life and opportunities for the one in five Canadian children and youth who suffer from serious social and emotional problems.

A professor emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, Offord received the Order of Canada for his work as a child psychiatrist and his commitment to improving the lives of children.

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