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Nancy Olivieri

Nancy Olivieri

Dr. Nancy Olivieri is widely recognized as one of the pre-eminent crusaders for academic freedom in our times.

A respected medical researcher, Olivieri earned her credentials at McMaster University, the University of Toronto, and Harvard University. She has written over 150 peer-reviewed papers, articles, and book reviews. Her research has focused on the development of new therapies for patients with sickle cell disease and thalassemia, in conjunction with scientists from Europe, Asia, the United States, and Canada.

In 1996, Olivieri found that the drug she was researching at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto was showing unexpected potential risks to some patients in the trials. The drug company sponsoring her research abruptly terminated the trials and issued warnings of legal action against Olivieri should she inform her patients at the Hospital for Sick Children of the risks, or publish her findings.

Despite these warnings, Olivieri published her findings in the New England Journal of Medicine and was subsequently dismissed from her position as Director of the Hospital for Sick Children Program of Hemoglobinopathies. After more than seven years of legal battle, an independent committee of inquiry into the matter vindicated Olivieri and concluded that neither the university nor the hospital offered her appropriate support in her conflict with the drug company. Olivieri was reinstated to her position at the Hospital for Sick Children and her actions have also been vindicated by several other independent reports.

This experience has led Olivieri to international notoriety as a defender of research integrity, academic freedom, and as a critic of the increasing corporatization of universities. Her story illustrates the need for strong policies regarding industry-sponsored research within universities and supporting a researcher’s rights to autonomy.

Today, Olivieri serves as Senior Scientist, Division of Clinic Investigation & Human Physiology at Toronto General Research Institute; Director, Hemoglobinopathy Program, University Health Network; and, Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, University of Toronto. She is also a founding member of Doctors for Research Integrity, an organization dedicated to scientific integrity and the protection of patients in clinical trials, and executive director of Hemoglobal, a registered charity providing care to patients with thalassemia in overseas countries. Olivieri and her colleagues have recently built a small hospital centre in Sri Lanka dedicated to the care of patients with thalassemia.

The University of Winnipeg is honoured to present Dr. Nancy Olivieri with an Honorary Doctor of Science for her personal integrity and courage of conviction—integral components of academia.