May 4, 2023

Popular professor and his wife want to include UCalgary in their estate plans

Dr. Norman Schachar is keen to encourage future orthopaedic education and research
Norman Schachar and his wife

Graduating from the University of Toronto, Norman Schachar made the decision to intern at the Foothills Medical Centre, which had recently opened.

So he borrowed his mom’s car — 1967 Dodge Polara — and, despite never having travelled west of Windsor, Ont., gassed it up and aimed it at the prairies. “I knew nothing about Calgary,” recalls Schachar, “except the Calgary Stampede, the Calgary Stampeders, and Peters’ (Drive-In) hamburgers.”

That had been 1970. His original plan? To remain here for one year.

Instead, Schachar stayed put and created longstanding impact, producing a lifetime’s worth of contributions for the medical community in Calgary. It’s a legacy that includes being a surgical resident at the University of Calgary’s medical school in its very first year, co-founding the first osteoarticular bone bank in Western Canada, proposing an organized program of orthopaedic oncology that included limb-preservation surgery.

And, because he started running anatomy classes at UCalgary while only a resident, his influence on local medical-school students is widespread. “A whole generation,” says Dr. Schachar, MD, professor emeritus, who taught until 2015. “Almost all the physicians around Calgary, they’ve known me as their teacher at one time or another.”

He also found time to mentor Cy Frank, who became one of the world’s leading orthopaedic researchers. “A major force,” Schachar says of Dr. Frank, MD, PhD, who died eight years ago.

Professional legacy

And Schachar — whose résumé, with more than 100 published articles, fairly brims with achievement — is not done leaving his mark on the medical landscape.

He and his wife Kathryn have decided to feature UCalgary in their legacy-giving plans.

“It’s not going to be millions — I’m just a retired professor, after all,” says Schachar, chuckling.

“Obviously, I don’t have a lot of money. But I thought it was a good idea to be an advocate … to do something to encourage orthopaedic education and research, like an annual prize for a resident or a medical student.”

For Schachar, giving is nothing new. A colourful presence, he detailed many of his adventures in his 2015 book, “The Department: A Surgeon’s Memories — Before I Forget,” the proceeds of which were donated to the Norman Schachar Education Fund of the Calgary Surgical Education and Research Trust.

‘I’m pretty proud and I’m proud of the University of Calgary,” he says. “I’d like our family name to be somehow preserved, so people in medicine, going forward, would remember that name.”

He need not worry — the name continues to resonate. Two of Schachar’s daughters, Rachel and Jaime, are physicians. A third daughter, Leah, is a medical malpractice defence lawyer.

“Maybe if they do well in their lives,” Schachar says, “they’ll be interested (in legacy giving), too — if I set the bar.”