Dr Roger Tonkin’s passing marks the loss of a Canadian and international champion for adolescent health and a visionary leader for health care. Dr Tonkin graduated from the McGill University Faculty of Medicine in 1962, obtained a fellowship in pediatrics in 1968, and then became a faculty member in the UBC Department of Pediatrics in 1969. He had a broad interest in child and youth health and a special interest in adolescent health. As a clinician he had a particular interest in the treatment of eating disorders, while his research interests involved population-based research on broad issues related to adolescent health.
Dr Tonkin excelled as an academic pediatrician by the traditional metrics, with a major research contribution being the BC Adolescent Health Survey. He chaired the Department of Pediatrics at St. Paul’s Hospital and the UBC Division of Adolescent Health. He was president of the International Association for Adolescent Health and chaired the Adolescent Health Committee of the Canadian Paediatric Society.
But Dr Tonkin was far from traditional—he was a innovator and builder of interdisciplinary collaborative structures who never accepted no as an answer. He had the ability to engage physicians and other health care professionals, learners, government, funders, organizations, and community members in a shared vision of what could be created to improve health care and population health. He was an expert in developing an unpaid workforce of individuals who happily volunteered their time, but also a master fundraiser. He conceived of, initiated, and directed REACH, one of the first community health centres in Canada, which is still operating in East Vancouver 45 years later, and developed and chaired the McCreary Centre Society and McCreary Youth Foundation. McCreary Centre became recognized internationally for its research and leadership in adolescent health.
Dr Tonkin was a mentor and inspirational teacher to many colleagues who learned from him how to work with a community to achieve socially relevant goals. Long after his formal retirement from UBC in 1996 he continued to contribute his ideas and leadership to a range of organizations and activities, particularly the McCreary Centre.
Dr Tonkin also received many awards, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, the Order of BC, an Outstanding Achievement by an Investigator Research Award from BC’s Child and Family Research Institute, a UBC Long-Service Award, a Founders Award from the International Association for Adolescent Health, and a Ross Award from the Canadian Paediatric Society, which recognizes lifelong excellence in the fields of pediatric research, education, health care, and advocacy.
—Carol P. Herbert, MD
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