Attendees at this year’s Canadian Disability Hall of Fame luncheon will be treated to a keynote address by eminent Toronto neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator.
Since the early 1970s, Dr. Tator has had a profound impact on spinal cord injury research, prevention and treatment. In addition to his role as a neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital, he’s a Professor at the University of Toronto and a Senior Scientist at the Krembil Research Institute.
Dr. Tator oversees a team of researchers and clinicians, and his lab-oratory was the first in Canada to study acute spinal cord injury from a basic science perspective. His research changed our understanding of spinal cord injury, and he created one of the first experimental models of spinal cord injury in small laboratory animals.
Further, he demonstrated that post traumatic ischemia is a major secondary injury mechanism. He invented the inclined plane technique of functional assessment. Dr. Tator was one of the first to recognize the proliferation of endogenous stem cells in the injured adult mammalian spinal cord, and to assess the therapeutic value of transplantation of adult spinal cord derived stem cells after injury. He developed the first acute spinal cord injury unit in Canada, and he is known for the introduction of halo vests for treatment.
The extent of Dr. Tator’s impact is perhaps best exemplified by his work in prevention, where his efforts contributed to the adoption of new legislation and guidelines to prevent spinal cord injury in hockey.
In 1992, Dr. Tator founded Think-First Canada, a national brain and spinal cord injury prevention foundation aimed at reducing the incidence of catastrophic injuries to the brain and spinal cord.
Think First grew into a leader in the promotion of safety for Canada’s children and youth. In 2012, it merged with three other national injury prevention foundations to form Parachute Canada, the country’s largest injury-prevention charity, of which Dr. Tator is a founding board member.
A dedicated, kind and skillful surgeon, Dr.Tator’s loyalty to his patients is legendary. As chair of the division of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto(1989-1999), he fostered the growth of Canada’s surgical scientist training program, believing that aspiring academic surgeons should train in science at the highest level. His program gained national prominence and was admired by neurosurgical departments across Canada.
Dr. Tator played a key role in developing the Canadian Brain and Nerve Health Coalition (2002), which brought Canadian organizations together to promote increased research and public awareness of neurological conditions.
In recognition of his many contributions to improving the lives of people disabled through spinal cord injuries and concussions and for preventing in-jury in the first place, Dr. Tator was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in 2003. Among his numerous other recognitions, he was named a member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2009 and appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2017.