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U of M researchers to receive Order of Canada

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Patricia Martens, Director of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy at the Brodie Centre at the University of Manitoba.

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Patricia Martens, Director of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy at the Brodie Centre at the University of Manitoba. Photo Store

OTTAWA – Two University of Manitoba researchers are among the 74 new appointees to the Order of Canada.

Dr. Patricia Martens, director of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, and science professor Vaclav Smil, are the only two Manitobans on this summer’s list. They will be inducted along with actor Paul Gross, Olympic rowing champion Marnie McBean, and contemporary dancer Margie Gillis, who is being promoted from a member to a companion of the Order.

Bramwell Tovey, former conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, is being inducted as an honourary member because he is not a Canadian citizen.

Martens said she got a call a couple of weeks ago from Rideau Hall.

"That was pretty exciting," she said. "I thought, ‘Are you phoning the right person?' You always hear about people getting the Order of Canada and you never think it’s going to be you."

Martens is the third woman associated with MCHP to receive the Order of Canada, and she said "to have this little gem in Manitoba, this amazing research centre, recognized" is what thrills her the most.

"It’s a great opportunity to say hey, look in Manitoba, we have this incredible resource."

MCHP co-founders Evelyn Shapiro and Noralou Roos were honoured in 2007 and 2005, respectively.

Martens, who is also a professor at the U of M medical school, is being honoured for her advancement of population health research and her contributions to health policy in Manitoba.

Smil, who retired from the University two years ago, is being recognized for his contributions as an author, professor and speaker to our understanding of the impact of energy use on our biosphere.

Smil accidentally found out about the nomination months ago when someone writing a letter of support mistakenly sent the letter to Smil himself. He said he was honoured though he also said he rarely seeks public attention and until a few years ago, seldom ever agreed to a media interview.

He also said he thinks it is rare for someone in the scientific community to be recognized this way.

"You normally have to be a hockey player or a football player or a 14-year-old who has changed the world," said Smil.

Smil’s research encompassed a broad range of topics including energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment and public policy.

He has written more than 30 books, including four being released this year alone

He is critical of governments for being too mired in politics to ever make big decisions, and said few in government actually understand the issues of energy, the environment and population growth affecting our planet.

"Everybody is an instant expert in energy," he said. "I’m trying to do my little part to help people understand it a little bit better."

Governor General David Johnston announced the appointments from Rideau Hall this afternoon. There is no date set yet for the ceremony.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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