Dr. Alvin Zipursky is Chair and Scientific Director of PGPR, a post he has held since he initiated the Programme for Global Paediatric Research (PGPR) in 2004.
Before turning his focus to the issue of global child health he spent much of his career looking after children with blood disorders and cancer in his own community.
It is his years of extensive experience and dedication to improving the health of children in developing countries that has made it possible for PGPR to raise the profile of global health issues and ignite the interest of researchers from around the world.
It could be said that Dr. Zipursky’s second career began when he retired at the age of 65, but those who know him would say he never really retired, he just broadened his scope to that of the world’s children.
His medical journey began in 1953 when he graduated from the University of Manitoba, M.D., B.Sc (Med). He went onto receive post-graduate training in Paediatrics and Haematology in the children’s hospitals of Winnipeg and Cincinnati, and then in the Department of Medicine, University of Utah.
He began his academic career at the University of Manitoba in 1957 in the departments of Paediatrics, Physiology and Biochemistry. In 1960 he became Director of the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service in Winnipeg.
Research studies into the prevention of Rh disease were a major focus during his tenure in Manitoba. Those studies were successful and have contributed to the near eradication of the disease in most high income countries.
In 1966 he was appointed Chairman of Paediatrics at McMaster University. As founding chairman, he created the Department of Paediatrics, its faculty and mission, planned for the paediatric wards and clinics of the McMaster University Medical Centre, and developed a regional program for paediatrics. He served as Chairman of Paediatrics at McMaster from 1966 to 1972, and again from 1978 to 1981.
He also served as president of the Canadian Society of Clinical Investigation in 1975-76, and as president of the Canadian Haematology Society from 1974-1976.
In 1981 he was appointed Head of the Division of Haematology/Oncology at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, with responsibility for clinical service, research and education. During his 10 years in that position he developed clinical programs, regional services, and a strong base in clinical investigation In 1996 Dr. Zipursky retired from his position at The Hospital for Sick Children.
In January 1999 he assumed the position of Editor-in-Chief of the international biomedical journal Pediatric Research for a five year term.
Throughout his career, Dr. Zipursky’s interest and belief in the fundamental importance of research has been the foundation of his work. For more than 50 years he has been actively engaged in using evidence-based approaches to identify and solve paediatric health problems whether his work is focusing on patient care and education, laboratory research, or in the development of community programs at a local, national or international level.
He has studied the pathogenesis and prevention of Rh isoimmunization; erythrocyte metabolism in hemolytic disease, and neonatal hematology; and has conducted extensive research on the megakaryoblastic leukemias of Down Syndrome. He is currently studying the problem of Rh disease in low and mid-income countries.
At the same time, through PGPR, he continues to educate researchers, bringing them together from throughout the world to discuss critical issues, determine research agendas and begin collaborations with the hopes of establishing new networks like the recently formed Global Sickle Cell Disease Network and the Global Prevention of Kernicterus Network.
In 2012 Dr. Zipursky was awarded the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour in Canada, for his contributions to improving the lives of children globally.