Michael Boyle, Honouree, Hamilton Health Sciences Gala
February 11, 2012
Thank you Salim and to the Hamilton Health Sciences for this recognition. I am very happy to be associated with efforts to support new investigators and to give back a little of what was given to me when I was starting out. Thank you Harriet, Peter, Kathy, Peter and Sandy for your very kind words. I am quite touched by your comments.
I have one anecdote – a true one – and a brief comment. I don’t get out much so when I saw ‘black tie’ and Gala, I immediately thought Blue Blazer. And when I found out that black tie meant tuxedo, it brought to mind the only one time I had ever worn a tuxedo – my high school graduation formal. That was a long time ago. It was a disaster. I mentioned this in passing to John Kelton and he said, “…Let me guess…you got drunk, raised havoc and totally embarrassed yourself…” I said, no John, that’s just it. I didn’t. I had it all planned but couldn’t. I was terrified. It was this girl, you see. At 16, I learned about the power of women.
Six years later, I met my wife Sandy. Then I really learned about the power of women. She saved me from a life of anxious inertia and made possible whatever small contributions emanated from my work. But of course, power is the wrong word…it has been generosity, compassion, love, abundant good humour and every now and then, just a little bit of edge, to keep me in place.
Large and small our achievements in life have important contexts. Embedded in these contexts are opportunities presented to us over time. It is the very reason we are gathered here this evening – to provide young investigators with the opportunities they need to achieve their dreams of making important contributions to improving the health and life chances of Canadians, indeed all citizens world-wide. In this regard, I have a special debt of gratitude to the late Dan Offord. I started working with Dan in 1982. Larger than life, his infectious good humour and relentless passion and dedication to offsetting the ill effects on children, of social and economic adversity, has served as an inspiration for much of my work. Not only a motivator, Dan was a matchmaker: in the 1980’s, he sparked an enduring friendship and collegiality among Peter Szatmari, Harriet MacMillan, Ellen Lipman, Yvonne Racine and me that continues to this day.
Support from Hamilton Health Sciences has made my work possible…indeed made possible a career of research that I could not have envisioned 30 years ago. It has provided not only a physical place to work but the opportunity to develop new collegial ties. Kathy Georgiades came first as a post-doctoral fellow and then became faculty in the Department of Psychiatry. Her dedication to research and passion for getting it right have been an inspiration to my own work and a wonderful reassurance that the contributions arising from the next generation of scientists, will be much more meaningful than the ones arising from my generation. I can see this same process in my current graduate students – you are a joy to work with and hold such promise for the future. It’s not easy. It takes time to get your bearings and there are lots of things outside of your control. Just focus on doing good work and you’ll be fine. It’s our job to provide you with the opportunity to make these important contributions achievable.
In doing research, whether it’s focused on basic science, clinical investigations or population health, there is an unspoken fundamental contract. The institutions that provide resources; the researchers who implement research projects; and the individuals and families who give these projects life conspire with one another to leave this world slightly better off than the way we found it. If there is one thing that all of us share in this room, it is a basic desire to leave a small visible scratch in history that bears witness to some benefit for the next generation and for generations to come.
Thank you to Laura Duncan who has saved my research skin on numerous occasions in the past 2 years. Thank you to my three grown-up children – Caitlin, Kevin and David for putting up with an oft distracted father.
And thank you all for listening and for being here to support our young investigators. I wish you a wonderful evening.