Robert H.A. Haslam, MD: A Bequest that Bridges Years and Miles

Robert H.A. Haslam, MD, a 2008 recipient of the Order of Canada (that country's highest civilian award), is quick to share the honor far beyond his homeland's borders. "Whatever contributions I've made to pediatrics," he insists, "were possible through the experience, confidence, knowledge and training I received at Johns Hopkins."

His path from Saskatoon to East Baltimore, where he spent five years as a pediatric resident in the mid-1960s, was laid by a University of Saskatchewan professor, John Gerrard, who trained under the pioneering pediatric endocrinologist Lawson Wilkins. Haslam benefited from similar mentoring. "At Johns Hopkins, the faculty members were committed to taking us under their wing," he says. "It was an exciting time."

It was also a time of change. When he arrived in 1962, for example, one of the physicians in the private ward prohibited visitors including parents. Haslam sneaked a young couple into their child's room one night, and the action drew attention from the pediatrics department director, Dr. Robert Cooke. "Instead of reprimanding me," Haslam recalls, "he said, 'Good for you.' It was a very small thing that I did, but he noticed it and encouraged me."

Cooke also inspired Haslam to swap the traditional white coat for a child-friendly pastel blue one, a practice he maintained until retirement.

Following a post-doc in Kentucky, Haslam returned to Baltimore in 1970 to become director of the John F. Kennedy Institute and to serve on the Johns Hopkins Children's Center faculty and as deputy chairman of pediatrics. In 1975 he headed home to Canada, completing a distinguished career that included service as head of pediatrics and physician-in-chief of the University of Calgary and Alberta Children's Hospital, professor and chairman of pediatrics and professor of neurology at the University of Toronto and pediatrician- in-chief at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He and his wife, Barbara, now live in Okotoks, Alberta.

Johns Hopkins is never far from mind, he says, despite its physical distance. Recently, he notified the university of his plans to fund travel and educational expenses for future pediatric residents, through a bequest in his will.

"I had thought about it for many years and originally designated an unrestricted gift to the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins," Haslam says. "Following a modest outright gift to the department a few years ago, however, Department Chair George Dover asked whether that gift could be used to support resident travel and education. I thought that would be a good idea, so I have since restricted my bequest to this area, too.

"The process of documenting my bequest was quite easy, and it ensures that my gift will be used as I intend it to be. I also hope that, in sharing my plans with Johns Hopkins, others might do the same."

Making his intentions known publicly comes naturally to Haslam, who believes strongly in the value of role models. "Johns Hopkins set the stage and opened the doors for me," he says, "allowing me to use my role models to shape my own experience. I was able to mentor trainees who have in turn become mentors to others, so the tradition continues. It all goes back to my years in Baltimore."

« Back