One-on-One with Robert McMaster

Dr. Robert McMaster

As the Interim Executive Associate Dean, Research, Dr. Robert McMaster oversees the Faculty of Medicine’s research portfolio, providing guidance to health researchers across the province. In leading the development and implementation of the research component of the Faculty’s new strategic plan, Dr. McMaster is helping to facilitate collaboration and enhance research partnerships to not only deepen, but extend the reach and impact of the Faculty’s research activities.

What quality do you most admire in a leader?

RM: There are a lot of qualities I admire in a leader — intelligence, enthusiasm and compassion. But above all, a leader must be someone who has integrity. 

What makes you smile?

RM: Nothing beats a good, situational story. 

Who inspires you, and why?

RM: For me, it’s not about taking inspiration from just one person, but rather taking inspiration from many. And I’m very fortunate to not have to look too far for it — every day I take inspiration from my team members and fellow colleagues.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? 

RM: As an individual, you can contribute, but in order to make system changes, you need to work as part of a larger team. 

As Executive Associate Dean, Education, what is your vision for the Faculty of Medicine’s education programs?

RM: UBC’s Faculty of Medicine has a long history of research excellence. We’re recognized as a world leader in research related to cancer, brain and mental health, heart and lung health, population health, and chronic and infectious diseases. 

Looking forward, we need to continue building on our strengths to meet societal needs, but also explore new and emerging research areas. We also need to focus our efforts on accelerating the transfer of research to patient care. In the Faculty’s new strategic plan, Building the Future (2016-2021), we’ve outlined various research priorities, including our commitment to working with our academic partners and B.C.’s health authorities to establish Academic Health Sciences Centres (AHSCs) — a move that will enable us to collaboratively develop and deliver patient-oriented clinical research and care. 

For you, what makes UBC different?

RM: The collaborative approach taken within — and across — Faculties. There’s an understanding that we’ll be able to achieve much more if we work together.  

What’s your favourite song?

RM: Right now, probably anything by Norah Jones — she’s a fantastic singer. I recently went to one of her concerts, where she played a lot from her new album. 

How do you like to recharge?

RM: Being outdoors whenever possible — skiing, hiking, or being in the water.

What would you like to be remembered for?

RM: As a researcher, I hope to be remembered for my contributions to molecular immunology, parasitology and transplant immunology. I also hope to be remembered as someone who made positive system changes — it’s something I constantly strive for in my roles as Vice President Research for Vancouver Coastal Health, as Executive Director of the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI), and as Interim Executive Associate Dean, Research, with UBC’s Faculty of Medicine. 

What was your first job?

RM: My very first job was as a lifeguard at Cultus Lake in the Fraser Valley. I went on to work for the YMCA and taught swimming lessons and lifeguarding throughout my high school and university years.

Greatest mentor

RM: One of my greatest mentors remains Dr. Alan Williams, who served as my PhD supervisor during my time as a student at Oxford.  

Currently reading

RM: One of Ian McEwan’s older novels, Black Dogs.

Last vacation destination

RM: My last big vacation was to Machu Picchu in Peru and the Galápagos Islands. This year, I visited London, but the city always feels more like a second home to me, rather than a vacation destination.

Published: November 2016