People Profiles

Jack Taunton, MSc, Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology

September 29, 2015

In 2014, Time Magazine voted Vancouver one of the world’s healthiest places to live. If there was a category for healthiest places for athletes to live, we’d probably win that too—thanks to Dr. Jack Taunton.

Dr. Taunton is a professor emeritus at UBC's Faculty of Medicine and a medical director with Fortius Sport and Health. As well, he runs a clinical practice in sports medicine at the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre. Dr. Taunton completed an MSc in Kinesiology at SFU in 1972 and a Doctor of Medicine at UBC.

A lifelong marathon runner, Dr. Taunton was one of BC's first health practitioners to recognize the need for a new stream of medicine specifically focused on understanding, recognizing, and treating injuries associated with sustained exercise.

“My goal was to establish a sports medicine field, initially because I wanted to work in that area and saw that there was a gap. There was a lot of criticism back then. Other practitioners called us ‘that new breed of doctor,’” he says.  

Dr. Taunton’s attempts to introduce the new field were not only met with skepticism, but in some cases, legal action. 

“We wanted to set up the country’s first cardiac rehab unit to apply exercise to help people recover from heart attacks. The night before the lab was supposed to open at SFU, a police officer delivered a court injunction to close us down. The higher-ups were scared we were going to kill people by making them run,” he says.

Dr. Taunton eventually set up the clinic, but not at SFU. Working with Dr. Doug Clement, he co-founded BC’s first integrated sports medicine clinic, the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre at UBC. Dr. Taunton also created the first sports medicine fellowship program in Canada while at that university. 

Alongside his work building up the field of sports medicine, Dr. Taunton was making major strides in Vancouver’s sporting community.

“I had just been to the Auckland Marathon and noticed how much support they got from their local paper. I thought why not try that here? Up until then The Vancouver Sun had been sponsoring a fishing derby every year, but because of a declining salmon run they had to cancel it. They needed something to fill that gap so I went in to their office and pitched the idea of the [Vancouver Sun] run,” he says.

Today, the Vancouver Sun Run is one of the ten largest races in the world.

Dr. Taunton also co-founded the BMO Vancouver Marathon and the UBC Grand Prix of Cycling. In addition, he held roles as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games. He was also CMO for Canada at the Sydney Olympics, two Pan American Games and two World Student Games. He served as the Team Physician for the Vancouver Grizzlies NBA team.

Dr. Taunton’s contributions to the field of sports and sports medicine in Vancouver, which have been recognized by the BC Sports Hall Of Fame and the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine, among many others, are as vast and far-reaching as the many miles he has run. And he points to SFU as his starting line.

“Everything began in my kinesiology program at SFU. My whole drive started there. That is where I met like-minded people that wanted to create the same things as I did — and they became my partners,” says Dr. Taunton.

Author: Jackie Amsden

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