University of Toronto

Office of the Chancellor

BrainStorm: Converging Ideas on Brain Health and the Global Economy

April 10, 2014
London, UK

The Hon. Michael Wilson, P.C., C.C., B.Com., LL.D.
Chancellor of the University of Toronto

BrainStorm speakers From left: Mats Sundin, Moya Greene, Dean Catharine Whiteside, Chancellor Michael Wilson.

Many thanks, Catharine, for that kind introduction. Thank you, Moya, for hosting us this evening. And thanks to everyone who made this event possible. This gathering, to me personally, is an inspiring one, as I am sure it is to many of you.

Everyone is affected by this broad area of health, and everyone has a stake in brain health research and its outcomes. Of course we are all the products of early development and the beneficiaries of responsible care in the first 2,000 days, if we are fortunate enough to get it. The advantages to the human condition that will result from this research focus are hard to overstate.

As for mental illness, many of us are touched by the devastation it causes through our own suffering or through the suffering of relatives and friends. Some, like me, have experienced the loss of a family member because of mental illness. Others face the challenge of caring for a person greatly affected by mental illness, or, later in life, dementia. Yet I believe that regardless of our personal histories we can all feel encouraged by the culture of cooperation we see at work today.

There is cooperation at what I might call the high level. No longer are the fields of early human development, mental health, and the illnesses that come with aging and dementia viewed as separate enclaves with no common ground. Now it is understood that a breakthrough in one could have implications for all.

It is also understood that coordinated research offers much greater opportunities for success. This is why there are – as Catharine just outlined – ties between the Fraser Mustard Institute, the Tanz Centre and the Department of Psychiatry in our Faculty of Medicine. And this is also the reason for forging global links between outstanding institutions like the University of Cambridge, the Karolinska Institute, the University of Oxford and the University of Toronto.

Needless to say, each of these institutions is a powerhouse. Each supports a comprehensive range of research in its own right. Speaking as the Chancellor of U of T, I cannot stress too strongly the advantage of the Faculty’s longstanding association with our nine partner research hospitals. The Karolinska Institute has its university hospital; the Oxford medical school is situated in the John Radcliffe hospital; Cambridge acknowledges its practical orientation with the very name of its School of Clinical Medicine.

Each place, as I say, is self-sufficient and would continue to make important advances in isolation. But together we can be that much stronger. And I predict that together we will attract more support than we could through our individual programs and campaigns.

I am glad to be here tonight, in a country that has meant so much to the advancement of human knowledge. I am happy to be among people – from Sweden as well as the UK – who understand how profoundly the pursuit of research is linked to the betterment of humankind. I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can, and I thank you for your kind attention.

Read Faculty of Medicine coverage of the event