McMaster establishes new chair to foster Peace Through Health
Hamilton Spectator, October 15, 2001
by Suzanne Morrison
 
McMaster University is the first university in the world to establish an interdisciplinary endowed chair in a new academic discipline called Peace Through Health.
 
President Peter George announced the plan to create the chair Friday, during opening remarks for a three-day conference at which participants worked to lay the foundations for this emerging subject.
 
"The words Peace Through Health now carry special weight in the wake of the cataclysmic events of the past month," George said.
 
The conference, which drew participants from as far away as Afghanistan and Nigeria, was co-sponsored by the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet.
 
George said it's recently been recognized that health professionals have a major role to play in preventing war and promoting peace.
 
In the mid-1980s, for instance, UNICEF, the Roman Catholic church and other organizations negotiated annual three-day ceasefires in the El Salvador civil war, to immunize children against polio and measles.  The effort not only dramatically reduced the disease but also contributed a framework for negotiations that ultimately led to peace.
 
Contributions from private-sector funding partners will be matched by the university to create the new chair, which George said builds on McMaster's strong international reputation in peace studies, health and humanitarian action.
 
Earlier this year, McMaster honoured two alumni, Dr. Richard Heinzl and Dr. James Orbinski, with honorary doctorates for their humanitarian endeavours with Doctors Without Borders, which won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize.
 
Dr. Graeme MacQueen, a professor of religious studies who heads the university's media and peace education project in Afghanistan, said the endowed chair will help to enhance McMaster's leadership in peacebuilding work.
 
Child and family psychiatrist Dr. Joanna Santa Barbara, past president of Physicians for Global Survival, said she sees a hunger in young people for more than what mainstream health science offers.  Many want to work in a way that makes for a better world.
 
They are saying, "Teach us how to do it," she said.  "That, in part, is what this conference is about - to form the theory, work out the ideas and collect the case examples, so that we can teach young people how to do more of this."
 
Dr. Johan Galtung, a father of modern peace research and founder of the world's first Peace Research Institute in 1959, was a keynote speaker at the conference.  He applauds the concept of incorporating the medical profession's systematic, scientific approach of diagnosis and prognosis into peace research and solving situations of conflict.
 
Before the conference, Galtung lectured informally to a crowded roomful of students about the current war on terrorism. 
 
"We are in an extremely serious situation.  People making the decisions are playing cards with all of us."
 
He doubts estimates by U.S. President George W. Bush that the current crisis will end, at the very most, by the time his term finishes in four years.  Galtung suggested the crisis will last decades, and possibly centuries.