Dr. William A. Cochrane, 1926-2017

William A. Cochrane. Photo courtesy of the Alberta Order of Excellence

Dr. William A. Cochrane's career began in medicine and evolved through pediatrics, medical research, medical biotechnology into business.

Look not mournfully at the past — it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present — it is there. Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear, and with a joyful heart. (A favorite quote from Longfellow, used in a speech by Dr. William A. Cochrane to the University Biology Chairmen.)

Early days in medicine

A talented student, medicine was Bill Cochrane’s only career interest. He loved working with families with sick children, so after graduation from the University of Toronto, he pursued a pediatric residency and research in carbohydrate metabolism in the US and at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in Britain (1954/55).


Dr. William Cochrane, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Laureate 2010

The Cochrane test for diagnosing L-leucine intolerance was a discovery he made before becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP) in 1956. (This test, which is still in use today, identifies a type of hypoglycemia that is sensitive to protein intake.)

Later, during his time at Dalhousie (1958-67), he began the first cystic fibrosis clinic in the Maritimes, established the Atlantic Research Centre for Mental Retardation, and arranged funding for the Isaac Walton Killam Hospital for Children, which opened in 1970.

Establishing the U of C Faculty of Medicine

William A. Cochrane, U of C, 1973. Photo courtesy of the U of C ArchivesHis interest in Dr. Miller’s systems approach to teaching medicine led him to become the first dean of medicine at the new University of Calgary (U of C) in 1967. Dr. Miller’s innovation was to teach medicine one body system at a time (a change from the traditional anatomy, physiology, pathology, physical exam and graduated clinical approach to teaching medicine). The Calgary program (which started in 1970) was also unique in having no summers off and three years of continuous teaching.

In 1972, he established a satellite health clinic at the Stony Indian Reserve in Morley and was made honorary “medicine chief” at Installation as President of U of C. Source: University of Calgary Archivesthe reserve.

The first class of MDs graduated in 1973 in the top half of the Licentiates of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCCs).

Dr. Cochrane worked briefly as Alberta’s Deputy Minister of Health before becoming president of the U of C (1974-78).

CEO of Connaught Laboratories

From 1978-89, he was president and CEO of Connaught Laboratories which was evolving from an academic to a corporate medical research company. When it was sold he returned to Calgary.

Awards and honors

Over the course of his career, Dr. Cochrane received many awards and honors. Just a few of these are listed below:

  • Queen’s Jubilee medal (1977).
  • U of C LLD (1983).
  • Order of Canada (1989).
  • One of Alberta’s 100 Physicians of the Century (2005).
  • Alberta Order of Excellence (2006).
  • Inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (2010).

Find out more about Dr. Cochrane

Get the whole story!

Read the full profile of Dr. Cochrane in Dr. Robert Lampard's "Alberta's Medical History"
Dr. Cochrane

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