UAlberta Faculty of Law Prof. Timothy Caulfield, and alumni Daryl Katz and Mike Hudema, make the list of 50 Most Influential in Alberta for 2014

Katherine Thompson - 02 July 2014

The University of Alberta Faculty of Law would like to congratulate our colleague, and alumnus, Professor Timothy Caulfield ('90 LL.B.), on being named as one of the 50 Most Influential in Alberta for 2014 by Alberta Venture. In addition, the Faculty of Law would like to congratulate two more of our alumni also named in the 50 Most Influential list, Daryl Katz ('85 LL.B.), Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Katz Group and owner of the Edmonton Oilers, and Mike Hudema ('04 LL.B.), Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace.

A self-described science geek, the ever dapper Professor Timothy Caulfield (Avenue Magazine called him a "rock star scientist"), is a lover of evidence and an interdisciplinary hyper-rationalist who enjoys integrating a wide range of perspectives in the pursuit of health and science policies that will benefit all Canadians.

"I also thoroughly enjoy engaging the general public on controversial health and science issues."

Working at the crossroads between law and medicine Caulfield probes the limits of what medical science can do, and what we as a society feel it should do. He is well qualified for the task. Caulfield is the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, a professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, and a Trudeau Fellow.

Caulfield has been the research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta since 1993. "The timing was fortuitous. Three years after Caulfield began his academic career, researchers in Scotland successfully cloned a sheep. Three years after that, the first human embryonic stem cell lines were created in Wisconsin. Four years later, a complete map of the human genome was completed. Taken together, these developments had the potential to revolutionize medicine - scientists could theoretically create custom-designed organs, or organisms. The developments unleashed a storm of debate. Lawmakers were faced with a crisis - how to create a framework to limit these technologies to ethically acceptable uses, while not putting the brakes on scientific and medical progress. Caulfield was at the center of the debate."1

He is a prolific academic, and over the past several years has been involved in a variety of interdisciplinary research endeavours that have allowed him to publish over 250 articles and book chapters. He is a health senior scholar with the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and the principal investigator for a number of large interdisciplinary projects that explore ethical, legal, and health policy issues associated with a range of topics, including stem cell research, stem cell tourism (and the dangers), genetics, patient safety, the prevention of chronic disease, obesity policy, the commercialization of research, the ownership of human tissue, complementary and alternative medicine (including integrated health clinics), access to health care, and how the media can influence the public's medical decisions.

"I hope that my work helps to inform the development of Canadian health and science policy," he says. "We live in an era awash in evidence, but so often it is under-utilized or misapplied by the public, media, and policymakers."

Much of Caulfield's work seeks to cut through the misinformation and to empirically explore the nature and extent of social concerns associated with health technologies (stem cell research, cloning, genetic tests, etc.) and health services (complementary and alternative medicines, transplantation, etc.). Another arm of his research is the exploration of legal and ethical principles in the context of research and the delivery of healthcare services.

"The goal of my work in this area is to clarify the rights and interests of all relevant parties - including researchers, patients, the public and healthcare providers," he says.

The Cure For Everything
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Caulfield is and has been involved with a number of national and international policy and research ethics committees, including: the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research, genomics and Society Working Group, Genome Canada's Science Advisory Committee; the Ethics and Public Policy Committee for International Society for Stem Cell Research; the Scopes of Practice Expert Panel, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and the Federal Panel on Research Ethics, plus many other committees.

"I have been fortunate to work with many wonderful interdisciplinary teams," he explains. "Together we have used a wide range of methods to explore, inter alia, the impact of gene patents on health care and the research environment, how the popular press represents emerging technologies (and the impact these representations might have on policy development), the issues associated with of medical tourism, and so on."

On his own, and also as part of interdisciplinary teams, Caulfield has done much to respond to the ethical controversies associated with emerging technologies, including helping to craft guidelines (national and international) associated with stem cell research, cloning, and genome research. All of this work has been referenced by courts, in policy documents, ethics guidelines, and so forth.

Timothy Caulfield pushes the boundaries of public engagement. In conjunction with his brother Sean Caulfield, Centennial Professor, Department of Art and Design, University of Alberta, he developed two unique initiatives exploring the interface between art and science: , Perceptions of Promise: Biotechnology, Society and Art (2010), and Imagining Science: Art, Science and Social Change (2008), These resulted in the publication of award winning books and exhibitions that were featured in cities within and outside of Canada, including New York City.

"I am proud of the work I have done with my brother, U of A Professor Sean Caulfield, to bring together the science and art community in an effort to tackle provocative science issues in a unique and engagement manner."

Perceptions of Promise: Biotechnology, Society and Art (2010)

Caulfield writes frequently for the popular press, and speaks regularly on television, on a range of health and science policy issues. He is the author of The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin 2012), which spent several weeks as a non-fiction bestseller and was reviewed in the New York Times. Caulfield is currently looking forward to the publication of his second book with Penguin which utilizes the lens of celebrity culture to explores a range of myth about health, beauty and perceptions of the "good life.

He has won numerous awards for his academic work. In 2007, for example, Professor Caulfield became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is also a member of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and has won the University of Alberta's Martha Cook Piper Prize for research excellence and the Alumni Horizon Award. In 2004, he was awarded the university's media relations award in recognition of his work with popular press.

"I've been here long enough that I really do think of myself as an Albertan," he is quoted as saying in his interview with Alberta Venture. Like most people, he sometimes reflects on what his life might have been had his choices been different: "Some really interesting opportunities have emerged [elsewhere], and had I taken that path, I don't think I would have as interesting a life as I do now," Caulfield says. "I'm very grateful for Alberta and the University for supporting me." And though some might feel overwhelmed by such an array of commitments, Caulfield is fuelled by it. "I love it," he says. "I feel very lucky. Every time I'm having a bad day I think, 'Who am I kidding? I get to do this?'"2

Citing Sources:

  1. Canadians for Health Research (CHR): Citing Sources:

    [Researcher of the Month: Prof. Timothy Caulfield]: para. 4 & 5 [June, 2009]

  2. Alberta Venture: Citing Sources:

    [Alberta's 50 Most Influential 2014: Timothy Caulfield]: para. 4 [July 1, 2014]