Global implications for new GIFS scholarship

Dr. Patrick Man Pan Yuen was just a teenager when he came to Canada from Hong Kong to study, first as a high school student in Montreal before heading west to Saskatoon to study medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

Now, six decades later, Yuen still fondly remembers his time on campus and his mentor, Dr. Donald Baxter, and is giving back to his alma mater by establishing a major scholarship for graduate students at the U of S.

On June 1, the university announced Yuen’s gift of $1-million to establish a scholarship fund in the name of Baxter, to help graduate students from mainland China and Hong Kong study at the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS).

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

Dr. Man Pan Yuen graduated from the U of S College of Medicine in 1964. He will be forever grateful for his experience at the U of S, and his time with mentor, Dr. Donald Baxter.

The Dr. Donald Baxter Scholarships in Global Food Security will be awarded to high-achieving graduate studies 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 mainland China or Hong Kong, the scholarships can be awarded to qualified Canadian students to carry out research in China.

“This is the largest donor-funded graduatescholarship 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 of Research Karen Chad.

The $1-million gift will be matched by the Global Institute for Food Security through an annual contribution of $40,000 for 25 year. Each year, one or two graduate students from either mainland China or Hong Kong will each be awarded $40,000 per year to study at the U of S for up to three years under the supervision of a GIFS researcher.

“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,” said Maurice Moloney, GIFS executive director and CEO.

The scholarship fund is a tribute to the professor who meant so much to Yuen during his time at the U of S.

A celebrated neurologist, Baxter trained at Boston City Hospital and taught at Harvard Medical School, before joining the U of S medical faculty in 1957. Baxter supervised Yuen when Yuen was a second-year medical student, and they worked together on a research project whose results were later published in a 1963 paper in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.

“I remember I was completely thrilled. Fancy you already have a publication in an international journal when you are only a medical student,” said Yuen.

Yuen graduated from the College of Medicine in 1964. Following his North American training in general paediatrics,paediatric haematology and oncology, he returned to Hong Kong and became one of the few paediatricians to develop haematology and oncology as a subspecialty, culminating in the establishment of the Lady Pao Children’s Cancer Centre.

In 2007, Yuen was elected as the Outstanding Asian Paediatrician by the Asian Pacific Pediatric Association (APPA). He received the Master Teacher Award for his work in the Faculty of Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and became Professor Emeritus in Paediatrics in 2016.

“Dr. Baxter will always be a great teacher to me, and he is my mentor, I owe him a great deal,” said Yuen, who credits Baxter with teaching him “the importance of being meticulous and taking pride in everything you do.”

Watch Dr. Yuen speak about his experiences and memories of his mentor, here.

Full criteria and application forms for the new scholarship will be available July 10.

Written by Sara Alexander