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A Modern Anatomy Department

In 1974 Dr. D. Graham Gwyn (1974-1990) was appointed the new D.G.J. Campbell Professor of Anatomy.  He received his medical degree from the University of London, and came to Dalhousie after having spent some years as a faculty member in the Department of Anatomy of the University of Western Ontario.   

During Dr. Gwyn's tenure as Head, the Department expanded a great deal, becoming responsible for teaching the discipline of Anatomy to many different student groups: medical, dental, dental hygiene, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, kinesiology, undergraduate science, and graduate students.   Thus the Department was responsible for teaching students (713 per year by 1987) in five separate faculties: Medicine, Dentistry, Health Professions, Science and Graduate Studies.

Research in the Department expanded greatly during this period, with many more faculty members becoming involved in their own research programmes, often funded by the Medical Research Council of Canada and other external granting agencies.   Large items of research equipment, and other shared resources that were funded by group grants, included a Zeiss transmission electron microscope, a Cambridge scanning electron microscope, a Zeiss image analysis computer system, a Beckman Scintillation counter, several departmental darkrooms and two fully equipped experimental animal operating suites.

In 1988 Dr. Gwyn reported that the Department had 19 full time and 6 part time faculty members, and 20 support staff members, 9 of which were grant-funded.  Total research grant income that year was about $633,000.   While the first graduate student trained in the Department received his MSc degree in 1969, in 1976 the Department instituted its PhD programme, and by 1988 there were nine Masters students and two doctoral students.

The Department thrived under the direction of Dr. Gwyn, and underwent many changes, in common with all the other departments of the Faculty of Medicine.  During this period the medical school entered what might be termed 'the modern era' as many changes were brought about by social and technological advances in the latter half of 20th century.  The first computer terminal that was actually located within the department was established by Dr. Howard Dickson and was helpful in introducing department members to the possibilities of employing computers to help with research, teaching and administrative tasks.  This was the era of the IBM 'golfball' electric typewriter, and few people at that time would have predicted how the new 'electronics revolution' would utterly change the way things were done, affecting almost every facet of university life.  Who could know that the personal computer would in a few short years occupy the prime spot on every professor's desk, and that students would be bringing laptop computers into the lecture theatre and be able to look up articles relevant to the topic at hand (or not) in real time by logging onto Wikipedia?

Dr. Gwyn retired as Department Head after 16 years, in 1990.  Sadly, he died suddenly the following year while still in the midst of pursuing an active career in teaching and research activities in the Department.

Dr. D.A. Hopkins

Dr. David Hopkins (1991- 2002) took over the reins, first as acting Head, then as the next Campbell Professor, in 1991.  He had arrived in the Department originally in 1977, having come to Halifax following an Assistant Professorship in Anatomy at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

During Dr. Hopkins' tenure as Head of the Department, the name of the Department was officially changed to reflect its large amount of research in the area of Neurobiology.  Indeed, by far the majority of research activities in the Department were now related to Neuroscience, and it was fittingthat the Department became the Department of Medical Neuroscience.

Dr. D.A. Hopkins

During the 1990s the grant capture of the faculty members in the Department increased substantially.  In 1998 the total income for research activities in the Department was approximately $1.6million, an increase of almost 3-fold in ten years.   Two important research-related initiatives were initiated in the Department during those years as well, with the establishment of the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank and the Cellular Microscopy and Digital Imaging Unit within laboratories on the 12th and 13th floors, respectively.   These were funded by a combination of external and internal research grants as well as funds from the Department.  The facilities were made available to researchers in many other departments of the University as well as members of our own Department.

Several of the Department's faculty members transferred to newly-renovated research space in the Tupper Building in the late 1990s.  A new Retinal Research Laboratory as well as a new Laboratory for Molecular Neurobiology was established on the 15th floor of the Tupper Building, in space that had been occupied by the Dean's Office, the Faculty Council boardroom, and a faculty lounge.  These multi-disciplinary laboratories were funded with a combination of a grant from SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, external government grants, and money from the Faculty of Medicine.  

This took place at about the same time that the complement of faculty members in the Department increased, as a number of clinician-researchers became cross-appointed in Anatomy & Neurobiology.  Such cross appointments facilitated researchers from clinical departments in undertaking basic research projects and taking on research students within the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and allowed them to perform preclinical research in laboratory space within the Department.  As a result, the number of graduate students within the Department grew as well, with 10 PhD and nine MSc students and three post-doctoral fellows being in place in 2001.

Funding constraints over the years meant that the number of University-funded support staff in the Department declined from about 11 in 1974 to 6.5 in 2001.  As a result, faculty members had much less support available to them than in the past for their teaching and administrative duties, and they had to rely on individual research grants much more for research-related support.

Dr. Hopkins' term as Head of Department was completed in 2002, and Dr. John Rutherford was appointed Acting Head.  In January of 2003, Dr. Ron Leslie was appointed the new D.G.J. Campbell professor of Anatomy & Neurobiology.  He had spent the years from 1976 to 1988 as a faculty member in the Department of Anatomy, and returned to the Department after a fourteen year period away in the UK.  During those years he was a faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology of Oxford University, and also a Senior Director within SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, UK. (During his time in SB he was instrumental in securing funding for the new Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology in the Tupper Building, as mentioned above).




Early History > Mid 20th Century > Modern Department > Today