A father and surgeon’s legacy

Graham Clay as a student at UBC

After the loss of their father, Dr. Graham Clay (1931-2017), Jennifer Clay and Sarah McLeod were inspired to establish an award in the UBC Faculty of Medicine for medical students matched to a residency in surgery, as a way to memorialize their father’s enthusiasm for teaching students and advancing patient care.

The future impact of the Dr. Graham Clay Presidential Prize Endowment was doubled when the gifts were matched through UBC President Santa J. Ono’s Blue & Gold campaign for students to establish what is currently UBC’s largest award to support upper-year medical students.

“We are so glad to have had this opportunity to create a legacy in our father’s name to ensure his association with UBC into perpetuity,” says Sarah. “He would be so proud to know that, through this fund, his love of supporting students will carry on.”

After graduating with UBC’s third class of MDs in 1956, Dr. Clay practiced general surgery in Vancouver and taught UBC medical students and surgical residents – many of whom he continued to mentor for years to come, forming long-lasting friendships along the way.

A specialist in breast cancer treatment, Dr. Clay had an influential role in developing the Screening Mammography Program of BC – Canada’s first organized, population-based screening program for the early detection of breast cancer. Despite the challenges of a busy surgical practice and teaching schedule, Dr. Clay established himself as a leader in his field and regularly gave back to the medical community. Dr. Clay, Professor Emeritus of Surgery, was celebrated for 42 years of service with the UBC Faculty of Medicine in 2009.

“Dad loved his chosen profession and stood out as more than just a practitioner. He was always finding ways to develop his community, whether it was through a technological advance such as the early detection of breast cancer, or through the important work he did in teaching the next generation,” says Jennifer.

Starting next spring, each year a deserving medical student who has been matched to a surgical residency program will receive this substantial award of $20,000 – both a practical and inspirational boost before they embark on post-graduate training that lasts five years or more.

“Dr. Clay’s prize is a tangible way of reassuring senior medical students that they’ve done a great job so far and we have every confidence in their ability to be successful in their surgical careers,” says Dr. Gary Redekop, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Surgery. “Personally, and at the department level, we are very grateful for the opportunity to recognize and encourage medical students who have exemplified personal qualities of excellence and are inspired to go into surgery.”

The endowment, established by Dr. Clay’s daughters to memorialize their father, is the first of its kind in the Department of Surgery. The award will continue Dr. Clay’s legacy of supporting students and serve as an inspiration to future surgeons for years to come.

“I am truly proud to serve as Dean of Medicine for a university whose alumni and their families give, not only to support their community and profession, but to enlarge the circle of compassion that continues to strengthen and sustain our health care system for future generations,” says Dr. Dermot Kelleher.

For more information about supporting Department of Surgery and/or students in the Faculty of Medicine, please contact Nic Miller at 604.827.4493.