As many of you know, Dr. John Bergeron has stepped down as Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology after distinguished service in this role for many years. I take this opportunity to note the event.
Dr. John J. M. Bergeron has been a pillar of the McGill health sciences community for much of his career. As Professor and Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at McGill from 1996 to 2009, he distinguished himself through his formidable research capabilities, his leadership in academic and administrative affairs, and his personal passion for excellence.
Dr. Bergeron is first and foremost an outstanding scientist whose body of research work has gained him international prominence. His break-through work in the fields of molecular biology and proteins serves as the cornerstone of a truly remarkable career that continues vigorously now. His work with Barry Posner led to a new concept in signalling from polypeptide hormones and growth factor receptors in which spatial aspects of the cell, more specifically, signalling endosomes, were found to be key to polypeptide hormone and growth factor action. With David Thomas, Dr. Bergeron described and named the protein calnexin that defined a new sugar-based code in protein folding, now described in textbooks as the “Calnexin Cycle.” More recently, with Tommy Nilsson, Dr. Bergeron has pioneered the field of organelle proteomics, the ultimate objective of which is nothing less than to characterize the entire human proteome.
Dr. Bergeron has had extraordinary success in securing peer-reviewed funding for numerous research projects from organizations, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Genome Canada, the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. Indeed, his name on medical research applications in this country and other initiatives lends considerable gravitas. The recent acquisition of the first “next-generation” cryo-electron microscope in Canada is another tangible example of the strength of his reputation.
It was thus a great compliment to the University when Dr. Bergeron agreed to bring his skills to bear in the position of Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. In taking a comprehensive approach to his duties, he ensured that all groups within the department were well served, well funded and well staffed. Based on his reputation, Dr. Bergeron has attracted top-notch talent who share his passion for achievement and excellence. He also reached out to medical professionals in our teaching hospitals, encouraging them to come to the classroom to share their knowledge and skills, thus augmenting our teaching capacity.
Dr. Bergeron’s work with faculty is a tribute to his belief in the intellectual capabilities of McGill. He has an innate ability to identify specialized skills and lead individuals toward successful and rewarding career choices. That brand of leadership has led to the growth of the department overall. Consider that when he took over as Chair, the undergraduate program of the department had little more than a handful of students, while today it has more than 650 engaged in its curriculum.
The product of Dr. Bergeron’s work can also be seen in numerous other ways. He has been a tireless champion for the modernization of the department’s buildings. He was behind the modernization of our historic Strathcona Anatomy and Dentistry Building. His was a strong hand in the creation of our new amphitheatre, which boasts state-of-the-art technology and is a showcase of modern teaching tools. He was also a founder of the Innovation Centre.
Dr. Bergeron came to the job as Chair with a vision and an action plan to make that vision a reality. As we reflect on his accomplishments, we can confidently say he succeeded in that vision with great courage and clarity of purpose. He holds the admiration and appreciation of this Faculty, and we wish him extraordinary success in his position of Medical Scientist in the Department of Medicine at the McGill University Health Centre Research Institute. There he now heads the new laboratory of Systems Medicine and Cell Biology with Dr. Tommy Nilsson, while continuing to inspire the next generation of outstanding health science professionals as Professor of Medicine within the McGill Faculty of Medicine.
Vice-Principal (Health Affairs)
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine