Written by Michelle Rosen.
Dr. Jack Laidlaw was a practicing Endocrinologist and Emeritus Professor in the Department of Medicine. As a leader in the field he helped to create the Clinical Investigation Unit at Toronto General Hospital in 1956 and became the founder of its Division of Endocrinology. This pioneering work made him a force in the Faculty of Medicine.
Dr. Laidlaw was an innovator whose dissatisfaction with the training of clinician investigators in the mid-1960s led to a partnership with Dr. Ernest McCulloch. Both felt there was a need for a new graduate program that would adequately train clinician investigators with a more flexible and interdisciplinary approach to research than was possible in traditional basic science departments.
As a result, the Institute of Medical Science was born. This bold initiative was met with skepticism but despite this grew and thrived. Dr. Laidlaw served as Director from 1967 to 1975. In the early years, he worked hard to communicate the vision of the IMS to senior clinicians and Chairs with the goal of expanding the faculty and student base.
In 2014, Dr. Laidlaw was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, part of the Dean’s Alumni Awards at UofT. In the video profile prepared by the Faculty of Medicine, he describes the founding of the IMS as his “most important academic achievement.” The battle for a diverse and collaborative graduate unit that trains clinician-investigators was certainly won. The IMS now boasts over 600 faculty and 500 students from diverse backgrounds, and spans the entire hospital network. This is in no small part due to Dr. Laidlaw.
In 2015 Jack passed away at the age of 94. He was a bright and lasting presence in the IMS. He is remembered as a sweet and kind man whose commitment and vision led to the creation of an Institute that continues to make room for scientific innovation and clinical investigation in the 21st century.