UBC’s newest school gets a new director

Ask Dr. David Patrick about Canada’s early explorer David Thompson, and he’ll tell you how his leadership style is still relevant today.

“He took the time to try to understand the First Nations he was meeting along the way,” says Patrick, who will become the new director of the School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) in April. “He wasn’t up on a podium looking for laurels. He was just doing a thoroughly professional job of exploring the unknown, mapping it, and making the world more accessible.”

SPPH—UBC’s newest school—houses 45 full-time faculty, 125 clinical, adjunct, associate and emeritus faculty, 83 administrative and research staff, and 250 graduate students. Its research and teaching focus on themes within population and public health: epidemiology and biostatistics; global health and indigenous populations; health care services and systems; maternal-child health; occupational and environmental health; public health, emerging threats and rapid response; and social and life course determinants of health. Faculty members and students conduct research here and around the world.

A recent example of SPPH faculty impacting health internationally is Assoc. Prof. Steve Morgan, who was appointed to the World Health Organization’s Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development. Morgan is bringing his expertise in the economics of pharmaceutical markets and drug development to the working group’s wide range of international experts.

“The formation of the school that [founding Director] Martin Schechter catalyzed is allowing the full critical mass at UBC to come together, with the potential for a much bigger impact on policy and research provincially, nationally and internationally,” says Patrick. “We need to be a home for anyone interested in our overall vision and mission of population and public health regardless of their discipline—from the humanities through any aspect of the sciences. SPPH brings the potential for broad interdisciplinary contributions not simply to the health care system, but to the broader applications of population health and public health prevention.”

Prior to coming to this new role, Patrick served as Associate Director of STD/AIDS Control, then as Director of Epidemiology Services at the BC Centre for Disease Control. He completed his MD in Ottawa and his internal medicine and infectious diseases training in 1991. Early in his tenure at BCCDC, he completed the Master of Health Sciences at UBC.

“Strangely enough, it was the epidemiology course I took from Martin Schechter that sealed my interest in this path,” he says. Patrick joined the Dept. of Health Care and Epidemiology as an associate professor in 2001 before becoming a full professor in SPPH in 2009.

“Teaching brings me back to the roots of curiosity—why seeking new knowledge is not just important but also good fun,” he says.

When he’s not working, Patrick is cycling, skiing, sailing, or blowing off steam on his trumpet with his rhythm and blues or jazz bands. Or he’s spending time with his wife of 23 years, Patricia, and their two teenage daughters.

Although he’ll be continuing with some communicable disease research and his teaching, he plans to devote his efforts to leading SPPH and renewing its strategic plan.

“I’m going to be spending the majority of my time here on campus trying to make sure this ship is on the right course,” he says. “What I aspire to do in a leadership position here is to keep this place imbued with a sense of optimism about what it can become.”

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