The practice of medicine is a deep-seated tradition for the Rothwell family, so when young Robert chose to explore his interest in government history and politics by pursuing a Bachelor of Arts at UBC, he kept his options open.
“I was the only person taking honours political science who was also studying organic chemistry,” says Robert Rothwell (BA ‘67). “I enjoyed my experience but thought I wasn’t made out to be an academic, at least in the social sciences.”
He went on to study medicine at his father’s alma mater, McGill, where he was exposed to the culture and ideas of students from across Canada and the United States. Robert brought this enriching experience back to his internship at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver and his career of more than 30 years as a rheumatologist in New Westminster, BC, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones.
The cost of medical school was far lower in the late ‘60s, and combined resources from summer jobs, family and scholarships kept Robert out of debt. As an established physician, he decided to create a bursary at UBC in the Faculty of Medicine to help today’s medical students pay for their education.
“The medical students of today face high costs. There is no way their education can be anything other than expensive,” says Robert. “I really think the need for student aid in the professional disciplines, and especially in medicine, is absolutely clear-cut. They’re crying for funds. I had no difficulty in making the decision.”
Since 2001, the beneficiaries of the Robert S. Rothwell Bursary in Medicine have written letters of gratitude to Robert thanking him for his support. He says all the students seem career-oriented and committed to completing their education to the best of their ability.
“If I can facilitate that, then that’s exactly the sort of reward I want to get,” he says.
To support the medical students of the future, Robert decided to augment his bursary through an estate gift to UBC. Also passionate about the future of rheumatology in BC, Robert is directing a portion of his estate gift to create an endowed professorship in rheumatology in the Faculty of Medicine to increase the number of practicing rheumatologists in our province and advance the academic discipline.
By putting plans in place to leave an estate gift to UBC for a professorship in rheumatology and his bursary for medical students, Robert is able to invest in the future of his profession and his discipline, even before retiring from practice himself.