Dr. Alan Hudson
Dr. Alan Hudson, a renowned neurosurgeon, researcher and teacher, was the President & CEO who led the integration of hospitals which created University Health Network. (Photo: Courtesy Alan Hudson)

"A great agent of change" is one assessment of Dr. Alan Hudson's career at UHN.

And then there are other, more prickly epithets – too honest, blunt, even ruthless.

To all of these descriptors, Dr. Hudson says – so be it.

"If that's what people say, that's what people say … it is fair, totally fair."

That's a passage from the frank, wide-ranging and entertaining conversation with Dr. Hudson in a new episode of "The UHN Oral History Project," interviews with former leaders of UHN.

Dr. Hudson served as President & CEO of the precursor to University Health Network – "The Toronto Hospital"– from 1991 to 2000, and, was also a renowned neurosurgeon, author and recipient of numerous awards including one of Canada's highest civilian honours – Officer of the Order of Canada.

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During his tenure as President and CEO of The Toronto Hospital, Dr. Hudson orchestrated profound change, helping to lay the foundation for many of the programs and successes at UHN to this day. It all began with his instituting a vision statement to codify what the organization should be: "An internationally recognized academic health science centre."

"You want everybody in the place to know where you're going, what you're aiming at, and that includes floor cleaner, nurse, doctors," says Dr. Hudson, adding, "strategy is easy, the doing is the hard part."

In the process of that "doing" is where Dr. Hudson sometimes ruffled feathers, making tough decisions such as terminating the obstetrics program at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) in the early 1990s.

Alan Hudson receiving Order of Canada
Dr. Alan Hudson was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson at a ceremony in Ottawa in 2001. (Photo: Courtesy Alan Hudson)

Twenty years after his retirement from UHN, Dr. Hudson's legacy as a visionary leader and "change agent" live on. He introduced the concept of measuring the quality of care to provide accountability to patients.

He also pushed for the establishment of research institutes and expanded the appointments of research chairs. To accommodate the growth of research and create capacity, he devised a unique bond and sold the College Wing of TGH to come up with financing to rebuild hospital wings and allow construction of the MaRS building.

Dr. Hudson brought membership of the UHN board to a 50/50 ratio when it comes to male and female members. And he oversaw bringing the Doctor's Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital into the fold, eventually renaming the expanded group the "University Health Network" in 1999.

That's just a few of his accomplishments.

To this day Dr. Hudson remains humbled by the experience.

"I mean what a fluke of luck to have had the privilege to do that," Dr. Hudson says.

"That 10 years was the best of my life."

Listen to Behind the Breakthrough: Behind the Breakthrough Special Edition - "UHN Oral History Project" with Dr. Alan Hudson on Apple Podcasts

To suggest someone we should interview for "The UHN Oral History Project" email uhn.news@uhn.ca

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