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We rise by lifting others

Supporting outstanding mentors through the John McNeill Excellence in Health Research Mentorship Award.

April 1, 2016

Dr. John McNeill. Photo credit: Ivan Yas...
Dr. John McNeill. Photo credit: Ivan Yastrebov, UBC Pharm Sci.

Cardiac surgeon-scientist and UBC Pharm Sci alumnus, Dr. Subodh Verma, MSc’93, PhD’97, has established the John McNeill Excellence in Health Research Mentorship Award, in honour of his graduate training supervisor, Dr. John McNeill, professor and dean emeritus, UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The annual award recognizes outstanding mentorship by faculty members in any of UBC’s health-related disciplines.

The Verma family has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Dr. McNeill. Dr. Subodh Verma’s father, the late Dr. Subhash Verma, was Dr. McNeill’s first graduate student at UBC. Dr. Subodh Verma also went on to complete his graduate training in cardiovascular pharmacology under Dr. McNeill’s supervision from 1991-1993 (MSc) and 1993-1997 (PhD).

In creating this award, Dr. Verma and his wife, Sandra, hope to convey how mentorship can make a transformative change in the lives of mentees.

“I have always been greatly influenced by Robert Ingersoll’s words, ‘we rise by lifting others,’ ” he says. “It exemplifies the key attribute of a good mentor and for me personally, Dr. McNeill embodies what this means. His mentorship truly did transform my life.”

According to Dr. Verma, Dr. McNeill brought together excellence in scientific mentorship, with exuding and demanding the highest levels of integrity and honour. He provided opportunities, allowed his trainees to pursue diverse areas of research interest, and his steadfast character and time-management skills were particularly appreciated. “There is not a single day that I do not use what he instilled in me in my day-to-day dealings,” Dr. Verma confirms.

This year, the flagship John McNeill Excellence in Health Research Mentorship Award was presented to Dr. Annette Browne, professor, UBC School of Nursing. Dr. Browne is known for her ability to open minds to new ways of thinking, creating a willingness to explore the relevance of new concepts and ideas for understanding problems. Dr. Browne will receive a commemorative certificate, an award of $10,000, and will be invited to present to the UBC community on the topic of her research and approach to mentoring.

“I wish to extend my warmest congratulations to Dr. Annette Browne,” says Dr. Verma. “Successful people seldom reach their goals alone, and it is through the tireless efforts of mentors like Dr. John McNeill, and Dr. Browne, that individuals can go on to excel at what we do.”

“I hope this award will continue to grow to become one of the most prestigious mentorship awards at UBC, and serve as a constant reminder of how important it is to lend a helping hand, guide a lost soul, and nurture the next generation of Canadian intellect.”

Dr. Gary Lopaschuk, PhD’83, scientific director, Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, was also mentored by Dr. McNeill and extended generous support in the creation of this award.

Dr. Subodh Verma is a cardiac surgeon-scientist at St Michael’s Hospital, professor at the University of Toronto, and the Canada Research Chair in Atherosclerosis. Dr. McNeill became a professor in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UBC in 1975, and served as the Faculty’s dean for 11 years (1985–1996). His research focuses on the effects of drugs on the heart.