Strengthening global food security

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) celebrated the establishment of the Dr. Donald Baxter Scholarships in Global Food Security, made possible by a $1-million gift from Dr. Patrick Man Pan Yuen (MD’64), a distinguished pediatrician living in Hong Kong.

“This $40,000-a-year award is the largest donor-funded graduate scholarship ever offered at the U of S and we are extremely grateful to Dr. Yuen for making this major investment in young academic talent that will advance our global research collaboration in our signature area of food security,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad.

The gift will be matched by the U of S Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) through an annual contribution over 25 years. One to two graduate students from either mainland China or Hong Kong will be awarded $40,000 a year to study at the U of S for up to three years under the supervision of a GIFS researcher.

Maurice Moloney, GIFS executive director and CEO, noted that China has become an international leader in the area of agricultural research.

“This very generous gift will ensure that we make the most of productive collaborations and the talents of graduates from both countries working together in pursuit of a common goal—to bring global food security to both developed and developing regions for future generations,” he said.

Back in 1963 at the U of S medical school, Yuen and Baxter co-authored a research paper, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, on age-related neurodegeneration in brain cells.

“I was completely thrilled,” Yuen recalled. “I learned from him the great importance of being meticulous and taking great pride in everything you do.”

Yuen returned to Hong Kong in 1974 and became a pioneer in the fields of pediatric oncology and hematology, serving as founding chair of the Hong Kong Paediatric Haematology & Oncology Study Group in 1993. In 1995, he became the pediatrician in charge of The Lady Pao Children’s Cancer Centre, a leading cancer centre in South East Asia. In 2006, he was elected the Outstanding Asian Paediatrician by the Asian Pacific Pediatric Association.

Baxter went on to become director of the Montreal Neurological Institute where he made a significant contribution to the field of neurology and brain research.

“Dr. Baxter will always be a great teacher to me. I owe him a great deal,” Yuen said.

Yuen’s experience as a pediatrician has led him to believe that food security and nutrition are of utmost importance to the health of future generations.

“Throughout my medical career, I have come to the conclusion a medical doctor can really save relatively few of his patients in his lifetime. By offering to help set up research in increasing food production to combat hunger, far more lives can be saved,” he said. “I cannot think of a better place in the world than the University of Saskatchewan in fulfilling my wishes, since the place is well known as a major player in global food security.”

The scholarships will be awarded to high-achieving graduate students undertaking research at the U of S in areas such as seed and developmental biology, root-soil-microbial interactions, and related digital and computational agriculture. In the event that there are no suitable candidates from China or Hong Kong, the scholarships can be awarded to qualified Canadian students to carry out research in China.

Applications will be accepted starting July 10 through the College of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies.

“I know that my husband would be very honored that Dr. Yuen has named this scholarship after him and that the legacy of their work together at the U of S will be exciting research opportunities for graduate students from China today,” said Dr. Baxter’s widow Anne Baxter, who attended the celebration.

Watch a video of Dr. Yuen discussing his experiences and memories of his mentor here.

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