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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2012

McMaster University gives birth to a medical school

John Evans
John Evans

John Evans was just 35 when he was hired in 1965 to create a new medical school at McMaster University. He gathered a small group that had learned together at the University of Toronto: All physicians frustrated with traditional medical education and its tendency to neglect important community problems.

Together they shaped a radically different medical school program based on small group, problem-based learning taken over three years. They felt the need was great for medical graduates who could tackle unresolved questions of health care with new ideas.

The first class began in 1969, graduating in 1972.

The school has become renowned globally for its innovative approach, as well as being consistently one of the top Canadian medical schools for world-class research.

Named in tribute to its benefactor, the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine has grown to have more than 600 undergraduate students and 850 residents. Campuses include the Waterloo Regional Campus in Kitchener and the Niagara Regional Campus in St. Catharines.

Here is a summary of the history of those founders and the members of the first class:

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Dean

John Evans, a young Toronto physician and a Rhodes Scholar was recruited in 1965 as the founding dean. In him, McMaster found a super salesman with refreshing ideas. Under Evans' leadership, grew an innovative medical program emphasizing self-directed learning. The "problem-based learning" curriculum Evans pioneered has travelled across the globe. He became University of Toronto's president in 1972 and went on to hold posts, including the founding director of the World Bank's Population, Health and Nutrition Department and chair of Allelix Inc., one of Canada's first biotechnology companies. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada and now resides in Toronto.

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Assistant Dean

Bill Walsh

Bill Walsh, a leading internist in Hamilton and former chief of medicine at the Hamilton Civic Hospitals, was appointed assistant dean in 1965 and remained until his retirement in 1990. His reputation within the medical community helped the school gain acceptance among Hamilton's medical professionals and he played a key role in developing the school's curriculum. He chaired McMaster's first admissions committee and went on to become the associate dean of education. He was also the president of the Hamilton Academy of Medicine and President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. He lives in Dundas.

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Anatomy department chair

James Anderson

James Anderson, an anatomist was recruited in 1966. He devised a unique multimedia, multi-disciplinary lab that used pre-dissected specimens, models, medical images and demonstrations. The anatomy lab has since been a model for other medical schools. He also began an alternative high school. Anderson was honoured as Hamilton's Citizen of the Year in 1974. He died in 1995.

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Associate Dean

Bill Spaulding

Bill Spaulding, an internist and behavioural scientist began as associate dean in the fall of 1965, a position he held until 1970. He was pivotal in shaping the self-directed, problem-based approach. As chairman of the education committee, he led intense discussions on new methods of learning. When he retired in 1987, he published the book Revitalizing Medical Education McMaster Medical School The Early Years 1965-1974. He died in 1993.

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Pathology department chair

Fraser Mustard

Fraser Mustard, a hematologist, was recruited in 1966 to chair the pathology department. At the time, he was researching the role that blood platelets play in cardiovascular disease. It remained his research focus as he recruited international scientists to help establish McMaster as a major global centre for thrombosis research. From 1972 to 1982, he was dean and vice-president of the Faculty and was also responsible for the School of Nursing. In 1982, he founded the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and in 1999, he co-authored the Early Years Study for the Ontario government and became a strong advocate for early childhood education. Mustard was a Companion of the Order of Canada. He died in 2011.