Local physican honoured with Diamond Jubilee
Health: Dr. Robert Haslam received medal from Lieutenant Governor
By: By Tanya Kostiw
| Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 03:33 pm
When a local pediatrician told his friends he was thinking of becoming a neurologist, they questioned his decision saying it was a hopeless specialty because nothing can be done to help these patients, but Dr. Bob Haslam thought differently.
“I thought that there was a lot of things that were going to be discovered and it was going to be an exciting field,” he said.
Haslam, who became a pediatric neurologist, proved them wrong and over the past few decades has made numerous contributions to a medical field that is constantly changing.
Haslam's work includes everything from his instrumental roles at local hospitals and boards, developing the pediatrics department at the University of Calgary, to research and teaching. He was recently awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal by Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Donald Ethell for his contributions.
“It's really an honour and it's something you never dream of when you're starting out your career or even when you're finishing it,” he said of the award.
Haslam's storied career includes an Order of Canada and time as the director for the John F. Kennedy Institute, a centre at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore dedicated to research and the care of children with cognitive or physical handicaps. Locally, he has worked with children suffering seizures and epilepsy and conducted drug trials.
“That's where I developed my interest in children with handicaps as a neurologist,” he explained.
Haslam moved to Calgary in 1975 to serve as the head of pediatrics at the University of Calgary and head of pediatrics at the Foothills Medical Centre. He became the head of the Alberta Children's Hospital pediatrics unit when it opened in 1982. The university's medical school was relatively new at the time and Haslam was tasked with the role to develop the pediatrics department.
In 1986, he was recruited to Toronto to serve as chief of pediatrics for the Hospital for Sick Children and taught at the University of Toronto. Haslam spent 14 years there and described it as a wonderful experience.
Haslam returned to what he refers to as “God's country” and now lives on an acreage outside of Okotoks and still works part time at the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary. He said he doesn't think he could ever completely retire.
“I enjoy that,” he said of his work. “I really love working with children and teaching.”
Haslam is a deserving recipient of Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Order of Canada, said Janet Resta, communications officer for the office of the Lieutenant Governor.
“All of the members of Order of Canada are very distinguished,” she said. “That's the highest civilian honour that we have to offer.”
Haslam had a couple of inspirational role models who greatly influenced him in his pursuit of medical studies.
His grandmother was among the first group of Canadian female doctors and graduated from the Victoria College of Medicine at the University of Toronto at the turn of the century. In the early 1900s, she started the Maple Leaf Hospital in India near the Himalayan Mountains that focused mainly on maternity and children. Haslam's aunt also worked as a doctor at the hospital for 40 years and took care of members of the Dalai Lama's family. Haslam and his wife recently visited the hospital.
The pursuit of medical studies runs in the Haslam family as one of his sons and his grandson are following in his footsteps. However, Haslam's father wasn't part of this group as he was a physicist researcher.
“He never understood why I didn't go into physics rather than medicine,” Haslam laughed. “He thought medicine was a pretty soft profession.”
When Haslam first entered the field, MRIs and CAT Scans weren't used and since then, genetic causes of seizures and epilepsy have been discovered which helps with treatment, he explained. Children with leukemia used to only have a six-month lifespan, but now there is a 95 per cent cure rate, he added.
“It's been an exciting career to see these things develop,” he said.