First university job while at SFU at the Federal Government Forestry Research, McBride, B.C. Summer 1971
Abdul Sultan Jamal Professor of Pediatrics and Foundation Dean of the Aga Kahn University Medical College
My professional career began with Simon Fraser University in 1970 graduating with a BSc in Biological Sciences in 1975. Coincident with this I regularly gave my next-door neighbor a ride to SFU and the ride has lasted to this day as we married, had three great children and now one amazing grandchild. Following SFU I spent the next 10 years at McMaster University, doing an MD, MSc and PhD and fellowship training in child development before returning to Vancouver to complete my residency in pediatrics. I then joined UBC as faculty and did clinical work at Sunny Hill Health Centre and BC Children’s Hospital specializing in childhood disability. I have held a variety of roles over this period of time including Medical Director at Sunny Hill, Vice President, Clinical at Children’s and Women’s Hospital and Head of Pediatrics at UBC and Chief of Pediatrics at BC Children’s and Women’s Hospital from 2000 to 2010. I was also Associate Faculty, School of Population and Public Health and Senior Associate Clinical Scientist at the Child and Family Research Institute. During this time I helped establish a Centre for Community Child Health Research and a Centre for International Child Health. It was this work that linked me to the Aga Khan University where I did a 6-month sabbatical in Karachi and from this relationship ended up with my current role as the Abdul Sultan Jamal Professor of Pediatrics and Foundation Dean of the AKU Medical College, responsible for establishing a brand new Medical College as part of a Faculty of Health Sciences for East Africa based in Nairobi. I was extremely honored in 2007 to receive an Outstanding Alumni Award from SFU and in 2011 to have been appointed a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. I live and work in Nairobi, Kenya but return frequently to Vancouver.
Pictured below: Robert during his first university job while at SFU with the federal government Forestry Research team, McBride, BC, 1971.
Why did you choose to go to SFU?
SFU was seen as a small, young, innovative and just a bit radical university at that time and I was attracted to this and to the small group learning opportunities that SFU was known for.
Where did you spend the most amount of time on campus?
Most of the time was spent in the library but it was not all about studying. Those small group study rooms served multiple purposes!
What is your favourite memory from your time at SFU?
Besides the rides to SFU with my future wife, my favorite memory of SFU was simply the opportunity to meet and be with friends.
Who was your favourite SFU professor and why?
Dr. John Borden who was simply a mentor for me and encouraged me to pursue my goals even when the opportunities were not always so clear to me.
How has your SFU degree impacted your career?
Although not in any way “radical”, I have been influenced by what I saw as a university that challenged current thinking and provided the supportive environment that nurtured creativity. This foundation gained from SFU has stayed with me throughout my career.
What is your favourite SFU snow story?
Fear of losing control or being hit from behind in the downhill whiteouts – whether in snow or fog!
If you could give advice to students today, what would you tell them?
Well of course to have fun and build lasting relationships but also to recognize and value what you are getting through this very privileged education and contribute back to a global community that values difference and builds civil society.
What is the one thing about SFU that must not change?
A university is always changing but what must not change is the celebration of an institution's history.