Jan. 6, 2012

Dr. Garnette Sutherland honoured with Order of Canada

One of Canada’s highest civilian honours
Dr. Sutherland led the team that developed the neuroArm—the world’s first MRI-compatible surgical robot.

Dr. Sutherland led the team that developed the neuroArm—the first MRI-compatible surgical robot.

Calvin Sun

University of Calgary neurosurgeon Dr. Garnette Sutherland has achieved another first in a career spent breaking new ground. Dr. Sutherland has been named a member of the Order of Canada, an honour he found out about while he was prepping for surgery.

“The Governor General’s office called me at the Foothills Hospital. I was both humbled and honored. Humbled given the many prominent Canadians who have received this award and honored to represent the many collaborators, students and funding agencies who have contributed to whatever research success I have achieved.”

The Order of Canada is one of Canada’s highest civilian honours, aimed at recognizing a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation.

Along with Dr. Sutherland, key University of Calgary benefactors and honorary degree recipients Seymour Schulich and Don Taylor were also appointed to the Order of Canada. Kathy Sendall, who served two terms on the university’s board of governors from 2003-2010, was also honoured.

University Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon says world-renowned faculty like Dr. Sutherland will enable the university to achieve its goal of a becoming a top five research institution by 2016.

“I am immensely proud of Dr. Sutherland’s many achievements and how he continues to be shining example of excellence in his field,” said Cannon.

Dr. Sutherland has made news around the world over the past decade for leading the team that developed the neuroArm—the world’s first MRI-compatible surgical robot capable of both microsurgery and image guided biopsy.

The surgical robotic system is controlled by a surgeon from a computer workstation, working in conjunction with intraoperative MR (magnetic resonance) imaging. Dr. Sutherland developed the intraoperative MRI machine with the National Research Council and Winnipeg-based IMRIS Inc. The technology allows a high field MRI scanner to move in to the operating room on demand, providing imaging during the surgical procedure without compromising patient safety.

Besides being humbled and honoured at news of his Order of Canada Dr. Sutherland says the award is important to the future of Canada, “It is important to recognize the many contributions that Canadians make in creating the unique fabric of what we call Canada. The award documents how people have contributed to establishing this country as exceptional. Such awards are inevitably an inspiration for the young people of our nation.”

Cannon said she is also pleased to see the contributions of community leaders such as Seymour Schulich, Don Taylor and Kathy Sendall recognized in this way. “The ongoing support of our community is vital to the University of Calgary’s future success.”

Canadian philanthropist Seymour Schulich is a major supporter of post-secondary institutions across Canada and beyond, having most recently donated $100-million to support student leaders pursuing studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in select universities across Canada, including the University of Calgary. He is the namesake benefactor of the University of Calgary’s engineering faculty, the Schulich School of Engineering, and supports a variety of programs including, but not limited to, research, student awards and capital projects.

Don Taylor and his family have also been long-time and avid supporters of the University of Calgary, helping to fund a wide variety of programs and research across campus. Don and his wife Ruth were instrumental in providing support to spearhead the creation of the Taylor Family Digital Library, which opened last fall and sets the benchmark for technologically advanced libraries in North America.