Give at any level: Wolfe

Bernard Wolfe says in order to make the most of their lives, graduates need to continue both their vocational and humanistic education.

“A safe policy is to commit 10 per cent of every working day towards efforts in expanding your learning,” he says. “Because of rapid and continual global change, one needs to remain a life-long student.”

Wolfe spoke to more than 500 graduates from the Faculty of Law, Richard Ivey School of Business, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the June 17 afternoon session of Western’s 297th Convocation.

The University of Western Ontario conferred an honorary Doctor of Science upon Wolfe, for his contributions to research, patient care and education of future doctors and medical scientists.

Wolfe says convocation is just one of many milestones Western’s newest graduates will enjoy, and today is a time to celebrate with teachers, colleagues, friends, and to reflect on their time at Western.

“You have had the opportunity to explore new themes, concepts and areas of study. You have also learned to think for yourselves against the background of your own experiences,” he says. “You have acquired tools which will enable you pursue the career path you have chosen here at Western.”

One of Canada’s leading experts in the metabolic basis of heart disease and stroke, Wolfe’s distinguished career began in Saskatchewan. He graduated with a BA and teacher’s certificate in 1956 from the University of Saskatchewan and shortly after won a Rhodes Scholarship.

He completed a residency in Medicine and Endocrinology at McGill University and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Canada). In 1968, he completed research training at the University of California, as the recipient of one of the first Medical Research Council of Canada Centennial Fellowships.

Wolfe joined Western as a faculty member in 1970, chaired the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism for five years and is an emeritus professor at Western.

As a clinician scientist, Wolfe’s research program was facilitated by more than 30 years of funding from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Medical Research Council of Canada.

His research achievements were focused on the relationship between lipoprotein metabolism and atherosclerosis, with emphasis on the role of dietary components and female hormones.

It was Wolfe who first described how dietary simple sugars are converted to fat in the liver, a discovery that continues to have significance for understanding the development of Type 2 diabetes and the therapeutic strategies to prevent metabolic disease including obesity.

Wolfe pioneered the use kinetic studies in patients with hypercholesterolemia, techniques developed to define the rate of fat and cholesterol transport in the blood stream in response to hormone therapy, dietary components and cholesterol lowering drugs.

He also a combination of low doses of progesterone and estrogen normalized lipoprotein metabolism in post-menopausal women.

As a physician, Wolfe could not let the opportunity go by without mentioning the importance of eating well, of making time for some exercise each day and of making sure to get enough sleep.

“The key to coping with the hurdles that may come your way is to remain as healthy as possible,” he says. “While I encourage all of you to apply yourselves as you build your careers, remember to take time to enjoy life and to pursue your interests outside your career.”

Throughout his career Wolfe remained committed to collaboration.

He was involved in a number of significant discoveries, including the impact of cyclosporine on the development of type I diabetes, the elucidation of how fats accumulate in cells of the artery wall in patients at risk for heart disease and the discovery of genetic mutations in patients with inherited blood lipid disorders.

Until recently, he maintained an active clinical practice. While at Western, he taught undergraduate and graduate courses, supervised more than 30 graduate students and served as a primary mentor for endocrine trainees pursuing a career in lipidology as clinician scientists.

Overall, Wolfe has published more than 80 scientific papers, 100 abstracts and presented 170 national and international lectures

“Remember that you can help society at any level – in your neighbourhood, your city, your province, nationally or globally,” he says. “Whether you’re treating a patient, assisting a client, researching a new area of study or teaching, you will have opportunities to contribute to society, to make the world a better place. Your sincere efforts will be rewarded.”

In his citation, Robarts Research Institute scientist Murray Huff reiterates Wolfe’s commitment to patient care.

“Through the integration of research discoveries, he is dedicated to the medical management of patients with vascular disease to prevent future heart attacks and strokes,” Huff says. “Dr. Wolfe, who exhibits the qualities of tenacity, intellect, wisdom and compassion, represents the ideal person we want our graduates to emulate: scholar, researcher, educator, humanitarian and philanthropist.”

Also during the ceremony, the status of professor emeritus was conferred upon professor David Banting.