April 15, 2021
The late Dr. Ralph Arrowsmith was a pioneer. Throughout his life, he felt compelled to advocate and support the marginalized in our society. After his passing, he left a lasting legacy with a local and global focus — impacting students today and in the future.
Part of the first graduating cohort of UBC medical students in 1954, Ralph would later obtain his certification in psychiatry in 1961. He was passionate about the psychiatric movement and deeply committed to his patients. Ralph served for 28 years at the Riverview Hospital mental health facility in Coquitlam, BC — as both unit and medical director. Also, for 23 years, he was in charge of Riverview’s pioneering Continuing Education Program.
Ralph was dedicated to his patients, believing in universal health care as a human rights issue because, in his own words, “it was his profession.” Ralph felt it was everyone’s right to live without stigmatization and to be allowed to thrive whatever our circumstances. He hoped to encourage future medical students to consider working internationally, particularly for marginalized populations living in poverty. Ralph was a strong believer in human rights and in his will, left gifts to Oxfam, Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders to name a few.
In keeping with these beliefs, Ralph also left an endowment to UBC of over $1 million, divided two ways. $30,000 created a bursary fund to benefit gay and transgender students. The remainder established the Ralph Arrowsmith Global Health Fund to support international health initiatives. One such initiative is a partnership with the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Rwanda, which aims to foster a sustainable global health program that will improve health workforce education and practice, both in Canada and Rwanda.
Ralph Arrowsmith passed away in late 2016 but is well remembered by those who knew him. He was a conscientious and dedicated physician and teacher who always took the time to listen to his patients. His legacy lives on years later, with his generous and compassionate endowments helping locally at UBC and internationally benefiting those who never knew him.