The coming of age of the rehabilitation sciences

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On November 28, Canada’s very first physiotherapist to earn a PhD, Dr. Carol Richards, came home to McGill to deliver the fourth annual Edith Aston-McCrimmon Lectureship. The event, held by the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, brings together students, clinicians, educators, donors and alumni in honour of former Professor Aston-McCrimmon’s vision and pioneering work.

“Edith’s legacy as a leader in physiotherapy and her 50-year career at McGill will be celebrated here tonight,” said Dr. Annette Majnemer, BSc(OT)’80, Associate Dean at the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, in her opening remarks. “I am grateful to the family who made this event and lectureship possible,” she continued, referring to Edith’s brother, James Philip Aston, his wife Gisela Aston and Edith’s nephew, Brian Doyle, who were present. “Edie would be proud if she saw us today.”

Dr. Annette Majnemer

Considered a pioneer in the development of the physical therapy profession in Canada, Professor Aston-McCrimmon completed her undergraduate studies at McGill’s School of Physical & Occupational Therapy in 1950. She began her teaching career in 1952 and though she was an educator for the better part of her life, she never lost her desire to be a student and learn from others.

Dr. Richards, BSc(PT)’68, a Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation at the University of Laval, addressed this year’s invitees on the “Coming of age of the Rehabilitation Sciences.” In addition to her McGill BSc and her PhD, Dr. Richards also obtained an MSc in Rehabilitation Medicine from the University of Saskatchewan and an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Carol Richards

“We lost her to the University of Laval in 1978 but she has kept a strong connection to McGill,” said Dr. Majnemer about Dr. Richards, as part of her introduction. She also referred to Dr. Richards as an educator, advocate and mentor.

“You almost made me cry,” said Dr. Richards, in response. “I’m very, very honoured to be here and I’d like to thank the Aston family and Dean Eidelman (Dr. David Eidelman, MDCM’79, Vice-Principal of Health Affairs and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University) for making it possible.”

Dr. Richards’ talk focused on the beginnings of physiotherapy in Canada.

McGill’s School is one of the oldest, beginning in 1943 as a program for physical therapists, and evolving into the first Canadian BSc program in Physical & Occupational Therapy in 1954.

The PhD program in Rehabilitation Science, now over twenty years old, was also the first doctoral program in the field in Canada, and Dr. Richards was its first graduate.

“Edith loved the Faculty Club,” she remembered. “She invited all of the faculty members to the club and none of us ever knew you had to pay to eat here,” she joked.

It seems as though generosity runs in the family. The Aston family has been making the lecture series possible for the last four years.

Brian Doyle, Gisela Aston and James Philip Aston, from left to right

Professor Aston-McCrimmon passed away in 2005 and the family feels the series is a fitting way to honour Edith and her dedication to students, colleagues and to the entire physical and occupational therapy profession.

She taught close to 15,000 students while at McGill. She also founded the first provincial association for physiotherapists and was an active member of many national organizations in support of the field.

McGill has raised $150,000 to endow the Edith Aston-McCrimmon lecture series so that it can become a landmark event bringing together alumni, educators, practitioners and students. Connecting past with future, it is an ideal tribute to recognize one woman’s passion for teaching and learning at McGill University.

Previous speakers have included Dr. Martha Piper, former President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia, Heather Munroe-Blum, former Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University and Her Excellency Dr. Sharon Johnston, a graduate of the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy and wife of the Governor General of Canada.

 

Ursula Leonowicz

Photos: Nicolas Morin

 

 

 

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Comments

2 Responses to “The coming of age of the rehabilitation sciences
  1. june graham says:

    greetings
    RE: ” first Canadian BSc program in Physical & Occupational Therapy in 1954″

    i graduated from McGill with my BScPT in 1974. From what i recall, 1974 (not 1954) was the first year such a degree was given out at McGill. Pls correct me if i’m wrong
    many tx for spotlighting our noble profession
    june graham PT
    (Retired) Associate Clinical Professor, University of California, San Francisco

  2. Ursulajulia Leonowicz says:

    Greetings!
    The School of Physical & Occupational Therapy at McGill University is one of the oldest in Canada, beginning in 1943 as a program for physical therapists, and evolving into the first Canadian BSc program in Physical and Occupational Therapy in 1954. The PhD program in Rehabilitation Science, now over twenty years old, was also the first doctoral program in this field in Canada.
    Hope this helps clarify…