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Charles Tator

Professor of Neurosurgery, University of Toronto
Division of Neurosurgery, Toronto Western Hospital
Founder, ThinkFirst Canada
Board Member, Parachute Canada
Director, Canadian Concussion Centre


Years Active in the IMS: 1970 - Present

The IMS looms large in my career as a clinician scientist. This category of researcher was just starting to be accepted as a legitimate scientific category when I joined the IMS in 1970, but I was even more unusual as a surgeon scientist. Jack Laidlaw was the IMS Director when I applied, and he was an outstanding clinician scientist. The PhD I obtained as part of neurosurgical training helped my credibility as a potential member. I think I was the first surgeon in Canada to obtain a PhD as part of surgical training. Robert Salter, the orthopaedic surgeon, may have preceded me as the first surgeon on the IMS Faculty.

My next great IMS memory is the invitation in 1973 to sit on the IMS Executive. Can you imagine the thrill of being at the IMS table with Jack Laidlaw, Ernest McCulloch, Lou Siminovitch and Jim Till from 1973-80? They were Canada’s greatest clinically grounded researchers, and then there was me just starting out. It was an incredible learning opportunity, like getting another PhD about how to do research. Another thrill gradually arrived, when I realized that my opinion started to matter to them. My time there coincided with Bernie Langer’s incredible contribution to surgical research when he created the Surgeon Scientist program, with me, Steve Strasberg, Rudy Falk involved at the start, and of course we utilized IMS’s formula which had already led to amazing success at training highly skilled, clinically oriented scientists. The 31 IMS graduate students I have supervised and still supervise have been an incredibly important, enjoyable and profoundly productive aspect of my career.

Indeed, IMS membership is a major factor in the honors received by me and the IMS students I have supervised. Mine include Officer of the Order of Canada, induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Chairmanship of Neurosurgery at our University and Head of Neurosurgery at several of the University’s Hospitals. There is also the Reeve-Irvine Prize from the University of California and USA Hockey’s Safety Award.

So, Happy Birthday IMS from a happy and appreciative member for the past 48 years!