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Dr. Malcolm Peat

Remembering Malcolm Peat

Over this past weekend, family, friends and colleagues gathered at the Queen’s University Club to celebrate the life of Dr. Malcolm Peat, the former Director of the Queen’s University School of Rehabilitation Therapy and founder of the International Centre for the Advancement of Community Based Rehabilitation (ICACBR).  Malcolm died suddenly on January 17th while on vacation in Italy.  He would have thoroughly enjoyed the event on Saturday as it brought together people from many dimensions of his life. Against the background of a slide show of photographs of Malcolm throughout his life, those gathered enjoyed a glass of wine, shared stories about him, and just generally enjoyed each other’s company.  It was very evident that Malcolm had led a full and accomplished life filled with love of his family and friends and that he had touched the lives of so many around the world through his work.  It was an honour to be part of it all.

For those of you who are reading this piece but didn’t know Malcolm, his obituary ( and a tribute published on the website of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association ( highlight a few of his many accomplishments. The School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s was Malcolm’s academic home for over 30 years. It was here that he launched the ICACBR, which has engaged faculty, staff and students for more than 25 years.  For their thoughts on how he will be remembered, I reached out to some of those who worked most closely with him – here are some of their reflections about Malcolm and what will become his legacy:

  • Elizabeth Tata: An accomplished diplomat, Malcolm had the ability to relate to people at all levels and from many cultural backgrounds. His success in so many international projects was due to his expertise in building partnerships through working directly with the leaders of governments and NGOs. I was fortunate to see this first hand and learn from him, as did many others, as we accompanied him on projects. Malcolm was adept at building partnerships through social and professional networks, the social aspect being an important component that was usually returned and strengthened the partnerships.  His legacy includes the many people, occupational therapists and physiotherapists and others who have participated in his projects and gone on to use the skills and knowledge they developed from that experience to benefit others. He enjoyed and lived life to the full and will be vividly remembered and missed.
  • Terry Krupa: Malcolm understood that a “low resource” rehabilitation setting did not mean that the people in those settings were without important strengths – including knowledge, resilience, and technical and socio-political expertise. He always had tremendous respect for the people he partnered with in international settings and seemed to thrive in these relationships.
  • Rosemary Lysaght: I first encountered Malcolm as an undergraduate Occupational Therapy student at the University of Western Ontario when I was a student in an elective course he taught in Functional Anatomy. I distinctly remember his presentations on work in East Asia, and in particular the way he brought to life the impact of leprosy on function. I was inspired at the time to work with marginalized groups. How exciting it was for me years later to arrive at Queen’s as a new faculty member in Occupational Therapy, and to find myself working alongside Malcolm in ICACBR projects. Life had come full circle, and Malcolm continued to mentor and inspire me in as I became increasingly involved in international work.
  • Margo Paterson: Malcolm Peat was a remarkable visionary – whether it was here at home developing the School of Rehabilitation Therapy or in far flung places around the world with ICACBR. He was well connected and could see potential in all kinds of people and places. My own work experience with Malcolm and staff at ICACBR included educating future health professionals in Russia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh as well as the first cohort of students in the Health Studies stream at the Bader College at Herstmonceux, UK. Malcolm always had a sparkle in his eye as he planned the next big adventure. The ripple effect of his legacy will last for many, many years.
  • Sandy Olney: How did Malcolm accomplish so much for so many? There is, of course, no single answer. I watched, tried to analyse, and ended up simply respecting and admiring his skills, his resourcefulness, dedication and persistence. Underneath it all he generated a “multiplier effect.” Although he never spoke of it, he had a keen insight into what mattered to individuals he was working with – what would capture their hearts and minds and where that might fit in a project for everyone’s gain. It appeared that he simply put the people and the projects together and let them run. He inspired us. Whatever we were doing we owned it beginning to end – and multiplied the gains.

As you can see from these reflections, Dr. Malcolm Peat was an inspiring and visionary force.  For my entire career, Queen’s School of Rehabilitation Therapy has been recognized as a leader in Community Based Rehabilitation and the place to study if one wanted an international rehabilitation experience.  The reason for this:  Dr. Malcolm Peat.  I was lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him here at Queen’s.  He will be missed – so many people have benefited from his knowledge, mentorship, friendship and vision that we can only imagine the full extent of his legacy.