Dr. Josef Skala to receive the CMA's highest honour

OTTAWA, Aug. 11 /CNW Telbec/ - On August 25, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) will present the 2010 F.N.G. Starr Award to dedicated researcher, talented actor and community builder Dr. Josef Skala from Vancouver, BC.

"The vigour and driven approach to which Dr. Skala approaches medicine is matched only by his passionate, enthusiastic approach to the Czech arts community, both in Vancouver and internationally," said CMA president Dr. Anne Doig. "He has taken great strides to advance medicine, while remaining equally as dedicated to enriching lives through a focus on the arts."

"I have been blessed by brilliant teachers, who taught me that a true physician should not only master the skills to deal with the functions of the human body, but also to perceive the well-being of each individual within the context of family, society, civilization and ultimately nature," said Dr. Skala. "I am deeply grateful to the CMA, and I hope this recognition indicates I have used my limited talents and energies to substantiate my gratitude to my adopted homeland, Canada, for opening her arms to me 41 years ago and giving me the freedom to pursue my dreams."

Dr. Skala studied medicine at the Charles University of Prague, graduating with honours in 1964. Escaping political persecution after the Soviet military occupation in 1968, he left Prague for Sweden, where he worked at the Wenner-Gren Institute in Stockholm. In 1969 he won a Medical Research Council (MRC) fellowship and moved to the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver. He obtained his PhD in physiology at UBC in 1972, went to Hammersmith Hospital in London for a fellowship from 1972 to 1973, and became MRC Scholar in UBC's departments of pediatrics and of obstetrics and gynecology between 1975 and 1980. He obtained his FRCPC in 1977 and became a full professor of pediatrics and obstetrics-gynecology in 1984.

In the early 1990s Dr. Skala became a visiting professor at Charles University in Prague, where he helped establish a bone marrow transplant program. He was associated with the development and operation of the bone marrow transplant program at UBC until his retirement in 1998, and he was instrumental in establishing official collaboration between Charles University and UBC.

He has published over 100 research papers, contributed to numerous monographies, lectured at multiple international conferences, and was responsible for obtaining over $2 million in research grants as a principal investigator.

Equal to his passion for medicine is his passion for the arts, particularly theatre. In the early '60s in Prague he was artistic director of the university group of classical comedy, and his interest in theatre followed him to Canada where he has been an actor, director and producer.

He has been the principal performer in more than 40 radio drama productions by the CBC. One such production led to Dr. Skala being recognized for best performance in a leading role of a Canadian radio drama. He has also served for many years as a member of the board of directors of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival.

Probably his crowning achievement in the arts, however, was the founding of the Czech theatre group, Theatre Around the Corner. Not only has the theatre been recognized for its high artistic standards, it has profoundly influenced the lives of members of the Czech community of greater Vancouver. Over three decades Dr. Skala produced, directed, was involved with stage design, and sometimes even played the principal parts, in more than 30 productions by the theatre he founded. He was instrumental in bringing to Vancouver many leading Czech actors and artists for guest performances.

The achievements of the Theatre Around the Corner were recognized in 2008 by the Czech government, when the theatre was selected for the prestigious Gratias Agit award. The award recognizes the promotion of the Czech Republic and its culture abroad and the promotion of friendship among nations. Recordings of Dr. Skala's productions are in the collection of the Theatre Institute of the Czech Republic.

Dr. Skala has become a well-known and highly respected personality among the Czech and Slovak communities in British Columbia and across Canada. He was instrumental in founding, and for several years leading, the British Columbia branch of the Czech and Slovak Society of Arts and Sciences. In 2010, Dr. Skala received the "Masaryk Award" from the Czech and Slovak Association of Canada. He is also well known in the Czech Republic, where he has regular broadcasts on radio and publishes frequently in newspapers and magazines. In collaboration with the Czech and Slovak Documentation Centre and the National Museum, he established a database entitled "Lives de-railed by communism," as part of his "We must not forget" initiative.

His artistic contributions alone could represent a lifetime of achievement. That he was able to accomplish these things in addition to being a professor, publishing numerous medical research papers and contributing greatly to the field of medicine, is truly remarkable.

Dr. Josef Skala will become the 45th recipient of the CMA F.N.G. Starr Award at a special ceremony at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ont. as part of the CMA's 143rd annual meeting.

SOURCE Canadian Medical Association

For further information: For further information: Lucie Boileau, Manager, Media Relations, (800) 663-7336 or (613) 731-8610, ext. 1266, Mobile: (613) 447-0866, lucie.boileau@cma.ca

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