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Robin Badgley Memorial Student Award

 

Professor Robin F. Badgley, 1931-2011. B.A.,M.A. (McGill), M.A., PhD. (Yale)

Robin BadgleyRobin Badgley’s Academic Career
In this short academic obituary I can only give a flavour of Robin’s many activities and accomplishments.  What I will do is briefly outline where Robin was and what he did in various stages of his career before noting four major themes of his scholarly work.
     Robin began his formal career at the University of Saskatchewan in 1959.  At that time the CCF government in the province was planning to introduce a government run medical plan, the forerunner of Medicare.  This move met vociferous and often vicious opposition from the organized medical profession in the province and from right-wing movements throughout North America.  Most of the doctors in the province went on strike to protest Medicare, although a number of progressive physicians, at the risk of their careers, did provide care and supported government financed medical services.  Robin was a great proponent of Medicare and provided much needed support to the pro-Medicare movement because it meant that the poor would receive care they might not otherwise be able to afford.  This was a courageous stance for someone at the beginning of his academic career.   Robin and Sam Wolfe, a physician from the United States, also wrote the famous and definitive analysis of the doctor’s strike in their book: Doctor’s Strike: Medical Care and Conflict in Saskatchewan, published in 1967.


     In 1963 Robin was recruited by the Milbank Memorial Fund in New York as a research scientist and as editor of the Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, a prestigious position for someone so young.   Through Milbank’s funding program for Latin America Robin developed a life-long involvement with Latin American medical education and health issues.   While at the Milbank he not only learned Spanish but wrote and edited papers, books, and special editions of the Quarterly on health issues in Latin America and on the sociology of health in Canada.   Roberto Castro, a university professor in Mexico, whose Ph.D. Robin supervised, has documented some of these activities in Robin’s obituary in The Mexican Journal of Public Health. 
     Robin next was recruited back to Canada to become the founding chairman of the Department of Behavioral Science at the University of Toronto in 1968 whose major initial task was to help educate medical students.  In establishing the Department Robin recruited a number of faculty, most of them young Canadian academics just beginning their careers.  Many of the young faculty recruited (Merrijoy Kelner, Ize Kalnins, Rhonda Love, Catherine Chalin and myself, and later Peter New and others) made the Department the centers of their own scholarly lives and, helped make it a major national resource for social science and health research.  At this time also Robin began supervising graduate students  – future professors who, along with the faculty in the Department, formed the foundational generation of scholars in the social sciences and health area in Canada.  Heavily involved administratively, Robin nevertheless was also carrying out his own research, notably the documentation of the provision of care in the Sioux Lookout Zone, an isolated First Nations territory in Northern Ontario and also continued his research into health insurance in Canada including a critique of user charges.
     For most of the decade from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s Robin was charged by the Canadian Federal Government with Chairing two consecutive National Commissions.  These Commissions were on highly controversial social topics, the first, on the functioning of the law on abortions and the second on the sexual abuse of children.   The appointment of Robin to supervise these Commissions testifies to the high regard in which he was already held both within academia and within governing circles in the country.  The Badgley Report on Abortion definitively documented substantial inequalities across the country in access to abortion services and provided factual data on which to base government policy.  The Report on the sexual abuse of children had a major impact on subsequent legislation in Canada both in broadening the definition of what constituted abuse and in helping provide greater protection to the victims of such abuse.   Both of these Commissions required extraordinary energy and innovative research methods to bring them to a successful and timely conclusion.  
     After his work on the Commissions Robin returned as a faculty member to the Department he had founded.   His presence in the Department was of enormous significance because his prestige and reputation helped attract talented students from Canada and abroad to the graduate programs he had helped develop.  At this time too, Robin’s many activities included becoming a consultant to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London on a project regarding Development Co-operation in Health, which involved visiting dozens of developing nations and which resulted in a written report of over 600 pages in two volumes.  He also took part in other international committees such as the Expert Committee on Malaria of the World Health Organization.
     Robin ended his formal university career in 1996 as Head of the Graduate Department of Community Health, the second largest graduate program within the University of Toronto.  Even before ‘retiring’, however, he also helped develop the plan for the Centre for Research on Women’s Health, a joint venture with Women’s College Hospital.  After retirement he joined the CRWH as a Senior Scientist where he spearheaded research on gender and health including the topic of violence against women.  He continued to publish scholarly work until his death.
     Robin would not be satisfied with what has been said so far, however, because we have omitted mention of the numerous people who provided support and help in his academic work.  Foremost amongst these, of course, is his life partner Jean, and the rest of the Badgley family, but also through the years many dedicated administrative staff on the government Commissions and within the University of Toronto.   Ever ready to generously acknowledge the contributions of others, Robin would want to say that his numerous accomplishments would have been made much more difficult without the assistance he received from administrative staff, from many in the medical profession and from his academic colleagues and students. 

Career Themes
I believe that Robin’s scholarly career can be described in terms of four major themes or characteristics:
First, was Robin’s total commitment to scholarship.  He had an immense capacity for work and was a painstaking, meticulous and prolific researcher and writer.
Second, was Robin’s commitment to the application of social science research to practical endeavours.  He was not interested in simply writing sociological papers for other sociologists to read but aimed to make a difference in the local, national and global societies of which he was a part. 
A third theme was his focus on social justice – his drive, evident throughout his career, to help the most vulnerable and the least fortunate among us.  He was totally committed to bringing about social justice through his personal example and in his teaching, research and policy activities. 
The fourth and final theme is that of Robin’s mentorship, his generosity and his embodiment of the highest standards of integrity towards all those associated with him, from colleagues, to co-workers to students.   He went to great lengths to help those around him in administrative support positions, and he immensely aided the careers of his students and younger faculty.
     As a consequence of his many contributions Robin was awarded the Order of Ontario in 2004, the most prestigious official honour of the Province, given to those who “represent the best of the caring and diverse society of Ontario and stand as shining examples for everyone”. 
     While preparing this necessarily brief resume of Robin’s career I was contacted by many of Robin’s former colleagues and students from across Canada and around the world, from Israel to Mexico to Zambia.  All of them wanted to celebrate Robin’s life and described their interactions with Robin in glowing terms.  There were too many of these comments to include them today. 
     Robin Badgley’s career epitomizes the best of what it meant to be a Canadian during the latter half of the 20th century.  In these days when self-interest has been promoted to the level of a social virtue, he provides a powerful counter example of a commitment to the common good.  Through his activities Robin not only earned the gratitude of the people of Canada but also the respect and admiration of all those associated with him. 

The above is a slightly revised version of a resume of Robin Badgley’s career given on the occasion of the celebration of Robin’s  life, Oakville, May, 2012.

David Coburn, B.A. (Victoria), M.A.,Ph.D. (Toronto).
Professor Emeritus,
Dalla Lana School of Public Health,
University of Toronto

Victoria, B.C.  October, 2012


 

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