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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 9, Issue 3, Fall 2015

David Sackett remembered as  'father of evidence-based medicine'

David Sackett David Sackett John Kelton speaks with Barbara Sackett
David Sackett (pictured above). John Kelton speaks with Barbara Sackett (below) at the tribute celebration for her husband, David Sackett.

David Sackett, widely known as the father of evidence-based medicine, died in May at age 80.

Sackett was 32 and a physician with training in internal medicine, nephrology and epidemiology when he came to Hamilton as the founding chair of Canada's first Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in 1968.

At McMaster from 1967 to 1994, he developed and mentored a new breed of applied clinician-scientists and worked with them to create and disseminate evidence-based medicine throughout the world. His collaborative research teams were the first to validate the efficacy of aspirin and carotid endarterectomy for patients with threatened stroke, to develop effective strategies for helping hypertensive patients, and to generate compelling evidence of the effectiveness of nurse practitioners.

Sackett earned many prestigious awards and published 10 books, about 50 book chapters, and over 400 papers in medical and scientific journals.

Sackett left McMaster in 1994 to found the international Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford in England. He officially retired from academia and clinical practice in 1999 and returned to Canada to establish a research and education centre about clinical trials.

There was lots of laughter and a few tears at a tribute to Sackett in June, hosted by the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. His widow Barbara Sackett, four sons David, Charlie, Andy and Bob and other family members mixed with more than 200 attending the event at the David Braley Health Sciences Centre.

Sackett was remembered for his intelligence and being larger than life, friendly, kind and fun; and his wife Barbara was thanked for being his accomplice in enjoying life.

John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, read a letter he received last year in which Sackett said: "I'm simply delighted with all that I've accomplished in my career. I have had a wider range of experiences and opportunities than I could have ever imagined working with brilliant, inspiring, loving and fun-loving colleagues. I've been guaranteed immortality through the continuing accomplishments of the young people I've mentored. I am at peace."

Read autobiographical interview with David Sackett


Video: A Celebration of the Life of David Sackett

1935 - 2015