Dr. D. Douglas Miller

Message from the Dean

Message from the Dean

Henry Marshall Tory had a bold – many would say, audacious – vision for the frontier university he was recruited to lead in 1908. After Tory arrived from McGill University to be the first president of the University of Alberta, he was determined to transform the U of A into a flagship institution of higher learning for the newly confederated prairie province. 

The fledgling university was more than a kilometre west of the small but bustling city of Strathcona on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River, across from the provincial capital of Edmonton.

A history written by Elise A. Corbet called Frontiers of Medicine describes the U of A environs this way: “A thick growth of native willow and poplar, straggling bushes and tall grasses covered the university site. The land was marshy, crossed by Indian trails, and bordered by large areas of unsettled land to the west and south. Until construction began on the first university building in 1910, no roads connected the site to Strathcona, and it would be many years before any were paved.”   

Notwithstanding all that, ambitious plans were soon underway to establish professional faculties at the U of A, including a medical school. Just five years after the university was founded, the Faculty of Medicine became a reality and accepted its first students in September 1913.  So begins the history of the only medical school to be established in Canada between 1883 and 1945. 

The straggling bushes are long gone. The marshy land has been paved over. The neoclassical buildings constructed during the early days remain, including the Medical Building (later renamed the Dentistry Pharmacy Centre). But they’re now surrounded by gleaming new edifices of polished glass and steel.

The U of A medical school has led the pace of development and has been ranked one of the top 50 in the world – home to internationally respected researchers in diabetes, obesity, virology, cardiology, cancer and spinal injury rehabilitation, among other things.

Our faculty has 20 departments, six stand-alone divisions, eight research groups and 31 centres and institutes. It boasts state-of-the-art labs and teaching facilities, award-winning teachers, graduating classes who score at or near the top of national medical licensing exams, and alumni who are making a difference in the health of the world’s peoples.

As we explore and commemorate our past, we will toast our present and plan our future. The one thing that hasn’t changed is our purpose – we remain dedicated to advancing health through teaching, research and patient care. Dr. Tory would be proud; we hope you will also take pride and join in our celebration.

D. Douglas Miller