The phrases “change the world” or “trailblazer” are gifted as freely as a hitting “like” on Instagram. Lofty visions surround us, yet how many people truly act on the ideas that can change the world? Who dives headfirst into today’s most critical challenges to drive progress in their communities and beyond? University of Alberta alumni, that’s who.
Three groundbreaking graduates are receiving the Alumni Association’s highest honour — the Distinguished Alumni Award. Innovators in their respective fields, each winner has taken bold action to build a legendary career. But their fierce commitment to their dreams isn’t really about themselves at all — it’s about helping others be, think and live better.
Looking at his photo, you might see Davis Quinton, loveable police officer from Corner Gas. We see the U of A’s first Indigenous graduate from the fine arts program, a fighter of stereotypes, and proof that the power of perseverance can achieve a dream. Hailing from a long line of headmen and healers on Alberta’s Sucker Creek First Nation, Lorne Cardinal was in his early 20s when he joined a theatre class on a whim. The pull to the arts was instant. Since university, he has acted in over 100 productions during a 40-year career — while firmly declining roles that perpetuated stereotypes of Indigenous peoples. Cardinal cares deeply for his projects, and his unique ability to balance both humour and heart never goes unnoticed.
Fifty years of medicine means fifty years of changing lives. R. Brian Haynes has helped physicians around the world improve patient care by pioneering health information science, which leverages the power of technology to make medical information more readily available. Innate curiosity ignited it all when Haynes questioned the proof behind the theories being taught in med school. Since then, he has advocated for evidence-based medicine, created digital tools to put vital information at doctors’ fingertips, and designed streamlined services to facilitate their access to high-quality research. Driving clinical decision-making to another level has generated Haynes numerous honours — including the Order of Canada.
Hope. Relief. Recovery. Robert Foster brought that to millions by discovering and developing Voclosporin — the world’s first oral treatment for lupus-related kidney diseases. One of only a few made-in-Canada drugs to receive FDA approval, it began when he boldly traded his tenured position at the U of A for entrepreneurship. Launched in his basement, Foster’s first business of developing better anti-rejection drugs for transplant patients went from risk to remarkable success. With over 170 patents to his name, Foster also invented Helikit, a point-of-care test that detects an ulcer-causing infection. Today, he steers Hepion Pharmaceuticals, accelerating therapies for chronic liver disease, hepatitis, cancer and other liver conditions. Foster is still closely connected to the U of A — mentoring up-and-coming scientists as an adjunct professor.
From leaders in healthcare to disruptors in business and social justice, the U of A’s Alumni Award recipients represent an ever-growing community of problem solvers and changemakers with outstanding accomplishments. See the full list of the 2022 Alumni Award winners.
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