It was with profound sadness that we received the news that Dr. Robin S. McLeod, distinguished surgeon, investigator, teacher, mentor and leader well known to most members of our University Department of Surgery, passed away on February 6th, 2024.
Dr. McLeod was an incredible mentor and role model to many U of T residents, fellows and surgical colleagues, as well as to local and international surgery communities.
At U of T’s Department of Surgery, Dr. McLeod was a leader in evidence-based surgery, as reflected through her work on multi-centre randomized controlled trials, Evidence Based Reviews in Surgery (EBRS) and Best Practice implementation in surgery. She was a deeply impactful educator and expert surgeon who consistently engaged in critical thinking, root cause analysis, and process improvement. As the University Department of Surgery Vice Chair, Quality and Best Practice from 2011 to 2022, she worked with multiple communities of practice across all TAHSN hospitals, influencing policy and improving patient care. Robin was a force of nature who constantly inspired her colleagues to do their best.
Dr. McLeod was also extremely active and influential in societies and surgical communities outside U of T. She served as President of the Canadian Association of General Surgeons and President of the American Surgical Association, and held the prestigious position of Regent of the American College of Surgeons. In 2019, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for her “profound influence on medical practice and knowledge translation in surgical education and care”.
Dr. McLeod obtained her BSc and MD degrees from the University of Alberta. She completed her training in General Surgery at U of T, Colorectal Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, and trained in clinical epidemiology at McMaster University.
She became a faculty member at U of T in 1985 and was later appointed as a Professor in both the Department of Surgery, and the Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation. She mentored several generations of graduate students and surgical trainees, imbuing them with her passion for knowledge expansion and translation.
As the surgical Lead of the Quality Improvement and Knowledge Transfer Program in the Surgical Oncology Program of Cancer Care Ontario, Dr. McLeod played a pivotal role in improving the quality of surgical practice in Canada. Her tireless and good-humoured leadership of so many diverse groups provided key inspiration to her many mentees and colleagues as they commenced and continued their own leadership journeys. Robin modelled and promulgated the importance of close friends and family in supporting a surgical career, including, welcoming and acknowledging that support system long before it became popular to do so.
Dr. McLeod's clinical and research interests included colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and evidence-based medicine. Over the course of her academic career, she led several Canadian clinical trials in colorectal surgery and authored over 200 peer reviewed articles and 40 book chapters. She held the Angelo and Alfredo De Gasperis Families Chair in Colorectal Cancer and IBD Research at Mount Sinai Hospital before moving on to a full time role at Cancer Care Ontario as Vice-President, Clinical Programs & Quality Initiatives.
On behalf of the entire Department of Surgery community, I extend our deepest condolences to Robin’s husband John, daughters Claire and Stephanie, and her extended family.
Robin . . . you were one of a kind. We shall not ken your like again. You are sorely missed, but your legacy in surgery and science will forever be reflected in our surgical practice and our quest to do better.
Carol J. Swallow, MD, PhD, FRCSC, FACS
RS McLaughlin Professor and Chair
Department of Surgery, University of Toronto