In Memoriam: Dr. Robin McLeod

February 14, 2024

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Dr. Robin McLeod

It is with profound sadness that we acknowledge the loss of Dr. Robin McLeod, who passed away on Tuesday, February 6, 2024.

Dr. McLeod was a pioneer in clinical epidemiology and health services research. She received a BSc and MD from the University of Alberta followed by training in General Surgery at the University of Toronto, and Colorectal Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.

In 1984, she joined the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University in Hamilton as a graduate student, becoming the first surgeon in Canada to champion this emerging field. Back in Toronto she joined a nascent clinical epidemiology planning group in the Department of Medicine, and along with Claire Bombardier, Allan Detsky, Vivek Goel, Rhonda Cockerill and others, created short courses and educational programs in the late 1980’s that evolved into the Clinical Epidemiology and Health Care Research Program in the Department of Health Administration at the University of Toronto. 

Dr. McLeod played a key role in the program, serving as a member of the Executive Committee from 1992-2006, and chairing the Admissions Committee from 1995-2002. She was instrumental in developing courses such as Controlled Clinical Trials and focused her research on clinical trials and measurement of health-related quality of life in surgery. 

Dr. McLeod’s clinical and research interests included colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and evidence-based medicine. She led multicenter Canadian clinical trials in colorectal surgery and perioperative DVT prophylaxis, and authored over 400 peer reviewed articles and 40 book chapters. She held the Angelo and Alfredo De Gasperis Families Chair in Colorectal Cancer and IBD Research before moving on to Cancer Care Ontario as Vice-President, Clinical Programs & Quality Initiatives.

Dr. McLeod was a passionate proponent of evidence-based surgery, and her influence has changed the way surgery is practiced across Canada today. Her work conducting multi-centre randomized controlled trials, establishing Evidence Based Reviews in Surgery (EBRS) and implementing Best Practice in Surgery at the University of Toronto have influenced the care of patients across Canada. 

In 2022, Dr. McLeod was elected as an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her “profound influence on medical practice and knowledge translation in surgical education and care.” She also served as President of the American Surgical Association, Canadian Association of General Surgeons, the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, and a Regent of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. McLeod is remembered fondly by those who worked with her during the early days of the Clinical Epidemiology and Health Care Research Program. She was the only person at meetings and courses in those days who wore surgical scrubs, a path breaker and role model for women academic surgeons, and a dedicated supervisor who had high expectations of her graduate students but supported them fiercely and celebrated their successes with pride. 

Dr. McLeod’s commitment to data and evidence as a foundation for surgical practice has influenced a generation of surgeon scientists and clinical epidemiologists across Canada and around the world. Her greatest legacy is her impact on the safety and effectiveness of surgical care, which has been forever improved because of her.

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