New home for sports medicine and exercise science opens at UBC

The Chan Gunn Pavilion
The Chan Gunn Pavilion | Photo: Courtesy of HCMA

Exploring the benefits of exercise, improving athletic performance and treating sports-related injuries will be the focus of a new building that officially opens today at the University of British Columbia.

The Chan Gunn Pavilion, a new facility for the UBC faculty of medicine, will house physicians and physical therapists who treat about 3,500 patients a month. It will also be used by faculty and students from the school of kinesiology, which is part of the faculty of education, to explore the body’s response to exercise. The building includes rehabilitation space, gym and labs for research into movement mechanisms, injury recovery strategies and optimal exercise training for people with cancer and other chronic diseases. The Chan Gunn Pavilion is also the new home to the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Clinic.

The building, named for the Vancouver physician Dr. Chan Gunn who donated $5 million to the faculty of medicine for its construction, will become a collaborative laboratory to develop and test cutting-edge methods for diagnosis and rehabilitation, and to apply new methods of helping all people– whether elite athletes or those interested in staying fit – reach their full potential.

“Exercise and sports have become an ever-larger part of our culture, as simple recreation, as a way to stay healthy, and as events around which whole communities – and even whole countries – can rally,” said UBC President Santa J. Ono. “The Chan Gunn Pavilion demonstrates our commitment to understanding the science of physical activity and applying those insights to help people recovering from injuries, grappling with chronic disease, or striving to win Olympic medals.”

The two-storey, 20,000-square-foot building includes a state-of-the-art gym named for Jack and Darlene Poole, whose foundation donated $1 million for the space. Many users of the gym will be people with cancer and other chronic diseases, so they can engage in safe, supervised workouts while enabling UBC researchers to explore the healing power of exercise.

Upstairs from the gym, the building has equipment for measuring body mass index, bone density, energy consumption and organ system responses to exercise.

The $11.6-million building received funding from the Government of Canada’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, which provided $4.73 million for construction.

“This historic investment by the Government of Canada is a down payment on the government’s vision to position Canada as a global centre for innovation,” said Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains. “That means making Canada a world leader in turning ideas into solutions, science into technologies, skills into jobs and start-up companies into global successes. This investment will create conditions that are conducive to innovation and long-term growth, which will in turn keep the Canadian economy globally competitive.”

Dr. Chan Gunn has developed a non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical technique for alleviating pain caused by nerve damage. Called Gunn intramuscular stimulation (Gunn IMS), this blend of Eastern acupuncture and Western medicine involves inserting a needle deep into muscle, causing it to relax, thereby relieving pressure on the pain-causing nerve. Gunn IMS training for physiotherapists and physicians will take place in the building, as well as at other teaching sites around the world.

“Through expanded training and research, this building will foster the growth of Gunn IMS as a treatment for chronic and neuropathic pain – a condition that often resists the best efforts of modern medicine,” said Gunn, who made the donation with his wife, Peggy. “We are honoured that UBC has devoted part of this building to building on my life’s work in helping people.”

The building will also serve as a training ground for medical residents and fellows who are specializing in sports medicine, orthopedics, and other medical specialties bringing exercise into clinical treatment.

“Researchers are just beginning to understand exercise’s full impact on human health,” said Dr. Dermot Kelleher, dean of the faculty of medicine. “Inside the Chan Gunn Pavilion, we will develop and deliver innovative, evidence-based strategies for maintaining health and treating a broad range of conditions, including cancer, osteoarthritis and even mental health. We see this building as a place of healing, not just for all manner of athletes, but for everyone.”

The Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Clinic, formerly situated in the middle of UBC’s athletic fields, was one of the world’s first academic sports medicine units when it opened almost 40 years ago. As physical activity and fitness became more popular, and more people needed help dealing with the resulting injuries, the building eventually proved too small to meet the growing demand. The clinic has more than 50 professionals involved in patient care, education and research, including sport medicine physicians, orthopedic surgeons, internists, musculoskeletal radiologists, physiotherapists, physiologists and exercise scientists.

For more information about the Chan Gunn Pavilion, click here.