News at Medicine - August 2009 - New chair for Discipline of Medicine

New chair for Discipline of Medicine
August 6, 2009
Dr. Wayne Gulliver has taken over from Dr. Anne Sclater as the new chair of the Discipline of Medicine, the largest clinical discipline within the Faculty of Medicine. It’s a big job, with responsibility for about 50 geographic full-time faculty members and more than 150 part-time faculty members located from St. John’s to Grand Falls/Windsor, Corner Brook and into New Brunswick.

Taking on a big job comes naturally to Dr. Gulliver. He recently stepped down as CEO of NewLab Life Science, the parent company of a group of three medical organizations located on LeMarchant Road in St. John’s. NewLab’s subsidiary, Newfoundland Genomics, is licensed to test for ARVC, a life-threatening genetic heart condition researched at Memorial for more than a decade, culminating in the February 2008 announcement that the gene had been identified through work done in the laboratory of  Dr. Terry-Lynn Young, Biomedical Sciences.

The Dr. Gulliver was approached in the spring of 2009 to put his name in for chair of the Discipline of Medicine, he had already decided to step aside as CEO of NewLab Life Sciences "because my degree is in medicine not commerce," as he put it in an interview with MUNMED News

Putting that remark in perspective, Dr. Gulliver notes his career began with a degree in Chemistry from Memorial. “Judging from the fact that I never took a biology course in my undergraduate years, perhaps I really shouldn’t be a medical doctor either,” he joked.

Dr. Gulliver’s qualifications as a Newfoundland born-and-bred specialist in Dermatology cannot be disputed. He grew up poor in an area of St. John’s locally known as Rabbittown. The growing campus of Memorial University was nearby; once accepted to Memorial he a B.Sc, B.Med.Sc., M.D. ’92, followed by four years of training in internal medicine at Memorial and further specialty training in dermatology at McGill.. He returned to St. John’s to take up clinical practice and an academic appointment in 1989.

“I’ve been involved with the medical school since I returned to St. John’s,” he said. “But when I first came back my clinical skills as a dermatologist were needed. From the beginning I’ve held an academic appointment with the Faculty of Medicine and during the last 20 years I’ve served in various positions -- until recently as head of the Division of Dermatology within the Faculty or Medicine, and as head of the Department of Dermatology with Eastern Health.”

The move to establish Newfoundland Genomics came from Dr. Gulliver’s research interest in psoriasis, an often-debilitating skin condition.  In 1999 he identified two genes with a strong association this disease. Newlab’s initial psoriasis work had actually begun seven years earlier in 1992, using DNA from 400 patients with 100 controls. Recent studies involving international populations suffering from this disease, published recently in Nature, validate these early genetic findings.

Dr. Gulliver has strong views on many issues, but when it comes to research he is adamant that all genetic research done in Newfoundland and Labrador must result in improved patient care for the people of the province as well as patients worldwide. Of course, he is the first to admit that the recent success Memorial researchers are having in the field of Genetics and Genomics is based on the hard work of people who have been in the field for a very long time – people like Dr. Jane Green, who last year received a Knowledge Translation Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR); and Dr. Terry-Lynn Young, whose biomolecular genetics laboratory is making groundbreaking discoveries at a rapid pace in a very new field.

Now that he is “back home” in the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Gulliver’s vision is firmly set on the new expansion of the undergraduate medical curriculum and the implications that will have for the Discipline of Medicine; plus the upcoming construction of a new building adjacent to the Faculty of Medicine's space in the Health Sciences Centre. This building will include space for expansion of the medical education curriculum and expansion of research within the Faculty of Medicine.
Dr. Gulliver's particular focus is on developing teaching expertise at clinical sites in the two provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick. It's a challenge he's looking forward to.