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Honouring Dr. Roth

More than 110 donors help establish the James Roth Research Chair at Western

by Paul Mayne & Krista Habermehl, MA'05 | April 7, 2015

Honouring Dr. Roth
The late Dr. Jim Roth, MD'75, was a renowned physician, inquisitive scientist, tough athlete and proud Western alumnus.

A renowned physician. An inquisitive scientist. A tough athlete. And a proud Western alumnus. The late Dr. James (Jim) Roth, MD’75, summed up everything it means to be ‘purple and proud.’

“Jim was one of the biggest Western supporters you could find,” says Dr. Graham King, a former colleague of Dr. Roth’s and current surgery professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “He had a long-standing interest in always doing what’s right and was a great ambassador for the University.”

And so, in honour of Dr. Roth’s legacy, more than 110 former colleagues, teammates, friends and family came together to raise $1.5 million – which is matched by the University for a total of $3 million – to establish an endowed chair in his name.

The James Roth Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Measurement and Knowledge Translation at Western will reside in the Faculty of Health Sciences, with cross-appointment to the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. The Chair will focus on surgery and rehabilitation of hand and upper-limb disorders, such as those due to congenital anomalies, trauma, arthritis and tumours, and will include the creation of a facility for the development of musculoskeletal diagnostic tools, bringing them from innovation to practice.

Mrs. Barb Roth says seeing her husband’s research being carried on by others would have made him very happy. “The James Roth Research Chair is a great honour to Jim’s legacy,” says Mrs. Roth. “Clinical research was a passion of his and a critical part of his success as a surgeon. The girls and I are so proud of him and we are pleased this research will continue on in his name.”

From left: Dean of Health Sciences, Jim Weese, Dean of Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Dr. Michael Strong, Dr. Graham King, and Western University President & Vice-Chancellor, Amit Chakma, speak at a donor celebration in honour of the completion of the Chair in November, 2014.

According to Dr. King, who spearheaded fundraising efforts, donors readily supported the initiative because of Dr. Roth’s influence and the impact he had on so many lives as a friend, supporter and mentor. During his lifetime, he provided subspecialty fellowship training in hand and upper limb surgery to more than 100 surgeons who are now working in academic centres throughout the world.

Dr. Roth came to Western as an undergraduate student in Chemistry in the early 1970s. After only two years, he was accepted to medical school, all while playing varsity rugby and football. He played a vital role in Western’s successful national football championship at the time, says friend and then assistant coach Darwin Semotiuk.

“Jim is sorely missed. He was an athlete, an academic, a teacher, a researcher and an exceptionally fine human being,” says Semotiuk. “He also had a keen ability to balance all things in life. Family was always first and foremost – following that, he was committed to his profession and research. He was an achiever. If he said he was going to do something, he did it.”

Prior to his death in 2013, Dr. Roth worked tirelessly to expand his standing as an international leader in upper extremity research and clinical innovation at Western.

In 1992, he co-founded the Hand and Upper Limb Centre (HULC), along with Dr. Robert McFarlane at St. Joseph’s Health Care, and served as its medical director since its inception. The Centre has grown to be the largest of its kind in Canada, with an international reputation for its research and teaching excellence.

“Dr. Roth was a valued and respected member of the Western family, not only for his work as a surgeon and scientist, but also as a friend and colleague,” says Amit Chakma, Western president. “Western is so pleased to be able to ensure his legacy continues through the extraordinary support to establish this new endowed research chair.”

This new position will complement the work of existing chairs, including the J.C. Kennedy Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery, which Dr. Roth spearheaded in creating, the Graham King Musculoskeletal Research Chair and the Sandy Kirkley Chair in Musculoskeletal Research.

Western has set its sights on becoming a world-class leader in research with a goal of creating 100 new chairs.

For more information, or to make a donation to Health Sciences, please contact Catherine Dorais-Plesko, alumni and development officer, Faculty of Health Sciences (519-661-2111, ext. 86510 or

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Impact Western
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