Originally from Hong Kong, I came to Canada to attend university, graduating from McGill University with a bachelor of science and doctor of medicine degrees. After interning at the Toronto General Hospital, I practised family medicine at the Regina Community Health Centre in Saskatchewan. During 1975-1977, I was involved with the University of Toronto Sioux Lookout Project in northwestern Ontario, where I provided clinical care in a small rural hospital as well as travelled to outlying Aboriginal communities. It was there that I began my long-standing interest in community health, particularly health care in remote, Aboriginal communities. I then returned to university and obtained a master of science in community health from the University of Toronto.
In 1979 i joined CUSO (Canadian University Service Overseas), a Canadian international development agency, and went to Tanzania, where I trained "medical assistants", a cadre of front-line rural health workers. After Tanzania, I returned to Sioux Lookout, Ontario, where I was appointed Medical Director for the Sioux Lookout Zone, a part of the Indian health services network operated by the Medical Services Branch of Health and Welfare Canada.
In 1983, I joined the Department of Community Health Sciences of the University of Manitoba. In addition to teaching and research I was founding director of the Northern Health Research Unit from 1988 to 1994. I was admitted a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1984 and in 1992 I was promoted to full professor. During 1992/93, I spent my sabbatical leave at the Institute of Biological Anthropology, University of Oxford, during which time I prepared a doctor of philosophy dissertation, which was successfully defended and the degree was granted in May 1995. In June 1998, I was appointed head of the Department of Community Health Sciences. In January 2002 I was recruited to the University of Toronto as professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, now the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. In July 2004, I was appointed to the TransCanada Chair in Aboriginal Health. In August 2013, I began my term as dean of the School of Public Health, University of Alberta, completing it July 2018.
My major research interest has been in the area of northern and Aboriginal health, particularly in the epidemiology of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. I have published over 120 scientific articles and seven books. I have been awarded many research grants and contracts, totalling over $28 million since 1983 ($20+ million of which as principal investigator). I was National Health Research Scholar for two 5-year terms and was recognized by the University of Manitoba for my research contributions by the Rh Award in 1988. From 1998-2008, I was a senior investigator of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In 2009 I was inducted as Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. In 2010 I was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for my lifetime contributions to Aboriginal health research.
I maintain my interests in international health and have served as a consultant for various international development agencies. I was World Health Organization Travelling Fellow in 1985 and visited Greenland and Alaska. I have also investigated Aboriginal health conditions in Arctic Russia and among Amazonian Indians in Brazil. In 1993 I was elected President of the International Union for Circumpolar Health. In 2004 I founded the International Network for Circumpolar Health Research. In 2009 I was appointed co-chair of the Human Health Expert Group of the Arctic Council. I also served one term (1987-1990) as a commissioner in the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.
DPhil, Oxford University, 1995
FRCPC, Royal College of Physicians of Canada, 1984
MSc, University of Toronto, 1979
MD, McGill University, 1973
BSc, McGill University, 1969
Senior Investigator, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, 1998-2008
Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, 2009
Member, Order of Canada, 2010
Authored Books and Textbooks
Health Care and Cultural Change, University of Toronto Press, 1988
The Health of Native Americans, Oxford University Press, 1994
Aboriginal Health in Canada (with James Waldram and Ann Herring), University of Toronto Press, 1995
The Circumpolar Inuit (with Peter Bjerregaard), Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1998
Health Transitions in Arctic Populations (with Peter Bjerregaard) University of Toronto Press, 2008
Circumpolar Health Atlas, University of Toronto Press, 2012
Population Health: Concepts and Methods, Oxford University Press, 1998
chronic disease epidemiology
health systems and policy research
health care databases