When the Duke of Edinburgh made some off-the-cuff comment about Canadians’ poor fitness levels during a visit to the commonwealth country in 1961, Dr. Roy Shephard didn’t suspect he’d get a job out of it.
Three years later, the U.K.-born found himself packing his bags and heading to the University of Toronto. Ottawa had taken Prince Philip’s words to heart, setting up three fitness research units.
Shephard had been working for the U.K. government in its chemical defence laboratory. He was examining how gas could be used in riot control and studying its effects on exercise capacity.
“I think I was very lucky,” the Brackendale resident told the Squamish Chief. “People were just starting to talk about exercise sciences.”
The job led to a long research career in a wide range of exercise science-related studies and, as of Monday (June 30), an appointment as a member of the Order of Canada for Shephard’s distinguished work. The honour is up there in terms of career highlights, said Shephard, who moved to B.C. 16 years ago.
When Shephard started his research, there wasn’t much thought given to exercise science. He was one of the pioneers in integrating exercise biochemistry into the core of exercise physiology research.
Shephard was “one of the first exercise scientists to begin to integrate biochemistry with the study of exercise physiology with his classic textbook Physiology and Biochemistry of Exercise,” Peter Tiidus wrote in a commentary in the Health and Fitness Journal of Canada in 2011.
Through Shephard’s leadership, the curriculum was weaved into undergraduate and graduate courses in the early 1980s.
“His wide ranging influence on exercise science in Canada and around the world has highlighted the possibilities of scientific investigation,” Tiidus wrote.
Although retired, Shephard is still an avid reader and writer. The next big challenge for exercise science is finding a way to motivate people to remain active, he said. That opens doors into the psychological side of examining people’s mindset and urges around exercise, Shephard said.
“I think that is the real challenge,” he said.
The last Squamish resident to be named a member of the Order of Canada was medical researcher Dr. LaVerne Kindree. In 2009, the longtime Squamish resident, who was instrumental in establishing the Squamish General Hospital, was handed the country’s highest civilian honour. Kindree conducted extensive field work on Lyme disease, which led to the provincial government declaring it endemic to the region.