$18M gift for Institute of Public Health
(at far left in picture), chairman of Canadian Natural Resources
and a longtime University of Calgary benefactor, is giving the
University $18 million to establish an Institute for Public Health. It
is the single largest donation from an individual the University has
received in its 38-year history.
The U of C’s president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Harvey Weingarten
(at right in picture),
recently announced Markin’s gift at the university’s annual report to
the community, held at the Archie Boyce Theatre, Calgary Stampede
“The Institute for Public Health will be distinctive in Canada for its
focus on health promotion and disease prevention,” Dr. Weingarten said.
“Dr. Markin’s gift to the university is one that will ultimately benefit
the entire Calgary community and beyond. We applaud his vision and
embrace this opportunity to build on the university’s success as a
leader in the area of health and wellness.”
Population health has emerged as a critical trend, as healthcare systems
look for new strategies to promote wellness before treatment becomes
necessary. Six research chairs will initially form the backbone of the
Institute. It is anticipated the institute will grow to include dozens
of scholars across the disciplines who will collaborate in finding
solutions to our most pressing public health issues.
Ultimately, achieving a critical mass of public health researchers could
allow the university to offer advanced degrees in this area, something
no other university in Canada currently offers.
Dr. Ron Zernicke, the U of C’s dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology, will
assume the role of Special Advisor to the President on Health and
Wellness, and lead the consultations to determine the focus and
structure of the Institute.
Dr. Penny Hawe, who holds the Markin Chair in Health and Society in the
Faculty of Medicine, will come under the institute’s umbrella as the
first of its six chairs.
“Population health is about switching the focus of inquiry from
individuals to populations,” Hawe says. “Medical researchers typically
investigate disease by narrowing in on organs or cells, but population
health researchers try to understand health by going in the opposite
direction, by making the object of analysis bigger and bigger.”
That means, for example, that public health researchers seek to
understand why rates for a particular disease might be higher in a given
population, and what strategies can be developed to reduce or prevent
it. What impact do issues such as housing, schools or friendship have on
our overall health? What are the social factors that keep seniors
healthier longer? The focus of the research is broad and can touch on
many issues people currently don’t think of as being about health.
In addition to the Chair in Health and Society, Markin has established
several other U of C health-related initiatives, including the
Undergraduate Student Research Program in Bone and Joint Health,
research fellowships in Sport Medicine, and several undergraduate
bursaries. He also helped establish the Markin Flanagan Distinguished
Writers Programme. All told, he has given the university well over $22
million. He received an honorary doctor of laws from the University in