Londoners named to Order of Canada

By Dale Carruthers, Special to Sun Media

Copyright 2008 The London Free Press

December 31, 2008

Two Londoners -- a surgeon who performed Canada's first successful liver transplant, and a scientist who raised the climate-change flag long before Al Gore did -- are receiving the country's highest civilian honour.

Bill Wall, 63, a transplant surgeon at the London Health Sciences Centre, and Gordon McBean of the University of Western Ontario were two of 60 appointments to the Order of Canada announced by Rideau Hall yesterday.

"I'm extremely honoured to be a recipient. It's a special recognition for me," said Wall, who was quick to share credit.

"Everything I have accomplished professionally has been part of a team effort. I've been privileged to work with a very large group of talented individuals."

Wall, who helped put London on the map as a small organ transplant centre, performed the now-famous liver transplant surgery in 1982.

"I look back on those early days and every liver transplant was a very risky undertaking with very little chance of success," he said.

"But over time, that became transformed into an operation today that is routine."

Today the success rate of a liver transplant is about 90 per cent, said Wall, who still receives Christmas cards from his transplant patients.

"It's very special when they send a note saying, 'I'm so glad to be alive.' "

The order's newest members will be inducted by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean at a date yet to be announced.

Wall said receiving the Order of Canada is a chance to bring attention to organ donation. "If this recognition brings more attention to organ donation, that would be extremely important."

McBean, 65, has been studying climate change for more than 30 years.

"People talk about climate change as a new issue -- I started working on this in the '70s," he said.

A UWO professor of political science and geography, McBean served as science advisor to the Canadian delegation to the conference that ended with the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas reduction.

McBean also chairs UWO's Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, where he works to reduce disaster-related deaths, injuries and property damage.

"Part of the societal problem is that the people impacted by disasters are poor people," he said.

McBean's work on climate change covers a broad range of related problems, such as global peace and security and how changing temperatures affect human health.

"Climate change is especially tragic because those poor people aren't the ones who caused the climate to change," he said.

For McBean, receiving the order is an important recognition because he's lived in Canada all his life and earlier worked for the government for many years.

"The Order of Canada is important because it communicates that science is not only doing, but it is also communicating," he said.

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