Since the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences' inception in 1924, several individuals have made exceptional contributions to support its mission of teaching, community service and research. The faculty would not be what it is today without them, as their indelible mark has helped it to grow and flourish. On October 19, representatives and family members attended the unveiling of the photo of the newest inductee to the faculty’s Wall of Honor, Alan Edwards.
Alan Edwards was born in the United Kingdom in 1927 and immigrated to Canada in 1952. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to launch a highly successful construction business building homes across Canada and larger projects oversees. Edwards’ interest in supporting the Montreal community began in the 1960s when he lent his support to the Learning Associates, a clinic helping children with learning disabilities. Though his involvement with the clinic he met Ron Melzack, a pioneer in the field of pain research at McGill. Edwards had a personal interest in chronic pain stemming from the debilitating migraines his wife Louise lived with. Melzack and Edwards embarked on a project to launch a clinic treating chronic pain that eventually became the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the Montreal General Hospital.
Alan Edwards involvement with the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences started through the efforts of Jim Lund, the Faculty’s Dean from 1995 to 2008 and a previous Wall of Honor inductee. In the 1990’s the Faculty was facing a possible closure due to a lack of research being carried out. Edwards “was one of the individuals who enabled us to keep our Faculty open and foster its growth” says Dean Elham Emami. Sharing Lund’s vision of a formal centre focused on pain research, he provided the financial support for the creation of the McGill Centre for Research on Pain in 2002, later renamed the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain (AECRP) upon Edwards death in 2007. The AECRP is hosted by the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences.
The Wall of Honour began in 1969 as the Hall of Honor. It remembers 28 people who have made a significant contribution to the success and expansion of the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences over an extended period. After a six-year hiatus the Hall of Honor has evolved into the Wall of Honor, now located in the reception area of the Undergraduate Teaching Clinic. “This beautiful Wall of Honor is now in a prominent place for all to see, reminding us of our history and the great community we have built together over 100 years” says Emami.
Normally the Dean sits on the nominating committee, which meets every three years when nominations are considered. Emami however took the unusual step of recusing herself from the committee to nominate Alan Edwards because of her strong belief to have him formally recognized for his considerable contributions to McGill. “Although I did not have the privilege of interacting and collaborating with Mr. Edwards, the lasting impact he has made on research, education, and patient care continues to reverberate today.” The nomination was supported by several current and former faculty members without hesitation.
Alan Edwards' children Jane and Eric were on hand for the induction. Jane Edwards unveiled their father’s photo and spoke on behalf of the family. They continue to drive their father’s philanthropic vision through the Louise and Alan Edwards Foundation, which supports initiatives in the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences and at McGill that include endowment funds for funding pain research and recruiting prominent researchers, the E.P. Taylor Chair in Pain Studies, the Edwards Chair in Clinical Pain, and community dental programs such as the Edwards Advanced Social Pediatric Dental Care for Patients with Complex Needs at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. More than $20 million in gifts have been made to McGill University by Edwards himself or through the Louise and Alan Edwards Foundation.
McGill representatives who spoke at the induction included Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi, former Faculty Dean Dr. Paul Allison, Chair of the Nominating Committee, and researchers Luda Diatchenko and Etienne Vachon-Presseau from the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain. Diatchenko stated to those present that Alan Edwards recognition in the Faculty’s Wall of Honor is a testament to his profound influence and exceptional vision and achievements. "Chronic pain is a challenging health problem, plaguing countless lives with its unyielding grip. Limited research endeavors have hindered the pursuit of solutions, underscoring the pressing need to expand our understanding and explore new avenues for effective interventions. Mr. Edwards recognized this important need for pain research funds and dedicated considerable efforts to propel research and enhance the management of care by establishing the Louise and Alan Edwards Foundation.”
“The generosity of the Louise and Alan Edwards Foundation has shaped the landscape of pain research at McGill, which is among the leading institutions for the study of pain in the world. This has empowered many students and professors to reach their full potential and make a lasting difference in the field of pain. I feel privileged to be part of the Alan Edwards Center for Research on Pain” says Vachon-Presseau.
Dean Emami says that Alan Edwards' enduring legacy shines through “in the amazing work of his children and of the Foundation, serving as evidence to his commitment and compassion towards society.”