Remembering Dr. Ronald T. Coutts

    On August 19, 2017, Professor Emeritus Ronald Coutts passed away at the age of 86.

    By Dr. Neal Davies on August 23, 2017



    Ronald Thomson Coutts was born June 19, 1931 in Glasgow Scotland and went to Woodside Secondary School. He graduated with a BSc Pharmacy of Glasgow University in 1955 and a PhD from the University of Strathcylde Glasgow in 1959. He was a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain since 1958. His credentials include a DSc from University of Strathcylde in 1976 in recognition of the research contributions made on the chemistry and pharmacology of N-oxygenated compounds of medicinal interest and on applications of mass spectrometry and combined gas chromatography / mass spectrometry to the identification and quantitative analysis of drugs and their metabolites. Dr. Coutts was elected a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada (FCIC) in 1975. He was also a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (FAAPS), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) in 1982, a Distinguished University Professor in 1983 then a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1996.

    He spent time in Chelsea College London and as a lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry and at Sunderland Technical College from 1959-1963. He was an Assistant and then Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, College of Pharmacy from 1963-1966, then a Professor at the University of Alberta from 1966-1997. He  initiated a Neurochemical Research Unit and was interested in the metabolism and pharmacokinetics in neonates, adults, elderly patients and animal models of various neurochemicals, especially anti-depressant drugs (phenelzine, tranylcypromine, trimipramine, imipramine, amitriptyline, fluoxetine, other SSRIs, haloperidol, etc); endogenous amines (e.g. phenylethylamine, tryptamine, histamine), and their prodrugs; amino acids; methylphenidate; diethylpropion; and fenfluramine and drug/drug interactions. Dr. Coutts conducted in vitro drug metabolism studies using isolated pure human cytochrome P450 isozymes and investigated the effects of inducers and inhibitors on drug metabolism. His major research interest was the analysis (isolation, separation, identification and quantification) of drugs, including drugs of abuse, drug metabolites, endogenous amines and amino acids, and environmental chemicals in biological fluids (i.e. urine, blood, CSF, brain, etc.) and in environmental samples, in herbal products and in foodstuffs. The analytical methods he developed over his career placed emphasis on derivatization of organic compounds in aqueous biological tissues and solutions, prior to their extraction and analysis, especially by combined gas chromatography / mass spectrometry. He was assistant scientific editor of the Canadian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1965 then scientific editor from 1970-1973. Dr. Coutts was President of Xenotox Services since 1978. During the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978 Dr. Coutts had a prominent role in the drug testing program as his expertise included gas chromatography/mass spectrometry for isolation, separation and identification and quantitation of drugs and metabolites. Dr. Coutts was the President of the Association of the Academic Staff (AASUA) 1978-1979,  and a member of the Board of Governors from 1982-1985. He received the AFPC award for excellence in research and the McNeill award for research excellence in 1982. He was Assistant Dean for the graduate program for many years. Furthermore, he was an honorary professor of Psychiatry since 1979, a McCalla Professor from 1985-1986, a Professor Emeritus since 1997. and he was also President of Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada (AFPC) from 1994-1996. 

    Dr. Coutts garnered a number of academic honours over his career including honorary membership in the Alberta Pharmaceutical Association. He also became a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. He received the Canadian College of Neuropychopharmacology Medal in 1992. He was made an AFPC honoured life time member in 1996 and received the Innovation in Neuropsychopharmacology Research Award in 1999. Dr. Coutts was a prolific and outstanding researcher, authoring over 350 research manuscripts and comprehensive reviews and several text books. He was supervisor or co-supervisor of 66 graduate students and of 28 post-doctoral fellows.

    Dr. Coutts married Sheenah Kirk Black in 1957 and they had two sons and a daughter. Outside of academia, he was an avid golfer and a member of the Windermere Golf and Country Club for decades. His family fondly remembers his love of music, poetry, puzzles, and foreign languages. Generations of pharmacy students remember an erudite, inspirational, and passionate lecturer. As an instructor, he consistently brought with him an excellent, organized series of lecture material into the classroom, and his keen sense of wit and humour was a joy to behold. Colleagues remember an exemplary academician in all facets of teaching, research, and administration. Dr. Ronald T. Coutts passed away August 19, 2017 at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.

    Friends wanting to gather together in remembering Dr. Ronald Coutts can join the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Alberta Faculty Club - Papaschase Room Friday, September 1, 2017 2:00pm - 5:00pm.