Roth Chair honours physician, athlete and proud member of Western family

Western University file photo

In honour of James Roth, the late physician, scientist, tough athlete and proud Western alumnus, Western has established the James Roth Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Measurement and Knowledge Translation. The university has matched the $1.5 million committed to the chair, for a total of $3 million.

A renowned physician. An inquisitive scientist. A tough athlete. And a proud Western alumnus. Jim Roth summed up everything it meant to be ‘purple and proud.’

And now, in honour of his legacy, Western has established the James Roth Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Measurement and Knowledge Translation. The university has matched the $1.5 million committed to the chair, for a total of $3 million.

The completion of the chair will be celebrated Monday.

“Dr. Roth was a valued and respected member of the Western family, not only for his work as a surgeon and scientist, but also as a friend and colleague,” said Amit Chakma, Western president. “Western is so pleased to be able to ensure his legacy continues through the extraordinary support received from his family, friends and colleagues to establish this new endowed research chair.”

Prior to his death in 2013, Roth worked tirelessly to expand his standing as an international leader in upper extremity research and clinical innovation at Western.

Along with Dr. Robert McFarlane at St. Joseph’s Health Care, Roth co-founded the Hand and Upper Limb Centre (HULC) in 1992 and served as its medical director since inception. The centre has grown to be the largest of its kind in Canada, with an international reputation for its research and teaching excellence.

Surgery professor Graham King of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry said Roth was as strong a doctor as he was a friend.

“Summing up Jim Roth? Wow, that’s a toughie,” said King, who played a major role in creating this new chair. “For Western, he certainly is ‘true purple’ in every respect. Even though he was not from London, he played football here and was one of the biggest Western supporters you could find. He had a long-standing interest in always doing what’s right and was a great ambassador for the university.”

More than 110 donors contributed to the chair, which will be based in Health Sciences, although the position is cross-appointed with Schuilch.

“Jim and I had many discussions about advancing research and building greater synergy between the Hand and Upper Limb Centre and the Faculty of Health Sciences,” said Jim Weese, Health Sciences dean. “I am delighted to have this research chair named in his honour. He was a great leader, a brilliant surgeon and a strong academic.

“His legacy lives on in what he has built, and also through the work of this chair, which aligns perfectly with the recent announcement of the Cluster of Research Excellence in Musculoskeletal Health.”

Western has set its sights on becoming a world-class leader in research with a goal of creating 100 new endowed chairs by 2020. This is the eighth chair created under the program.

Roth came to Western as an undergraduate student in Chemistry in the early 1970s. After only two years, he was accepted to medical school, all while playing varsity rugby and football. He excelled during medical school receiving the Lange Award as a graduating Western medical student with one of the highest scores in his class.

After completing an internship in British Columbia, he returned to Western, encouraged by Dr. Jack Kennedy, to join the Orthopaedic Residency training program. While in residency, he did pioneering research on a synthetic ligament for the knee. The Ligament Augmentation Device was subsequently marketed by 3M.

Under Roth’s leadership, HULC scientists developed several new techniques for computer-assisted surgery and surgical innovation, leading to advances in surgical mechatronics, joint design, wound-healing and limb re-implantation.

The Roth Chair will focus on surgery and rehabilitation of hand and upper-limb disorders, including the creation of a facility for the development of musculoskeletal diagnostic tools, bringing them from innovation to practice.

King, who established the Bioengineering Laboratory at HULC, added the new position would create an environment of bi-directional translational research, where ideas flow from bedside-to-bench, and back again.

“The chair will continue his legacy and will live on through advancing musculoskeletal knowledge at Western,” King said. “He was a big believer in donating and supporting the university. This chair epitomized what he thought of Western and the concept of giving and contributing to knowledge. It fits with what he was thinking and where he wanted to go.”

This new position will complement the work of existing chairs, including the J.C. Kennedy Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery, which Roth spearheaded in creating, the Graham King Musculoskeletal Research Chair and the Sandy Kirkley Chair in Musculoskeletal Research.

“As a friend, you couldn’t find anyone who was a stronger supporter of careers,” King said. “He was very much into mentorship and career building for those around him. He really built the careers of many residents and colleagues here.”

A strong personality when it came to sports and his research, Roth was an even greater man when it came to his wife, children and grandchildren, added King.

Roth’s wife, Barb, said seeing her husband’s research being carried on by others would have made him very happy.

“The James Roth Research Chair is a great honour to Jim’s legacy,” she said. “Clinical research was a passion of his and a critical part of his success as a surgeon. The girls and I are so proud of him and we are pleased this research will continue on in his name.”

Chakma has called the endowed chairs program the single most important initiative donors can support right now to generate a lasting impact. Chairs strengthen Western’s ability to retain and attract the best possible teachers and researchers, which in turn will attract other top faculty and students, he said.

Chairs ensure Western can continue its mission to develop leaders, inspire learning and ignite discovery, Chakma continued.

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ENDOWED CHAIR PROGRAM

Western has set its sights on becoming a world-class leader in research with a goal of creating 100 new endowed chairs by 2020. Eight chairs have been created under the matching program: