August 24, 1936

(Toronto, Ontario)


MD, University of Toronto (1961)
PhD, University of Toronto (1965)

Awards & Honours:

2020: Order of Hockey in Canada

2017: Laureate of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame

See All Awards
Picture of Charles Tator

Transformed medical understanding of spinal cord injury

Charles Tator

An eminent scientist, neurosurgeon, professor and administrator

Dr. Tator’s laboratory was the first in Canada to study acute spinal cord injury from a basic science perspective. His research transformed our world’s understanding of spinal cord injury with the first experimental models of spinal cord injury in small laboratory animals. Dr. Tator was one of the first to recognize the proliferation of endogenous stem cells in the injured adult mammalian spinal cord, and to assess the therapeutic value of transplantation of adult spinal cord derived stem cells after injury. In addition, the breadth of Dr. Tator’s influence is perhaps best manifested by his work in prevention, particularly related to sports and recreation.

Key Facts

Invented the inclined plane technique of functional assessment

Introduced halo vests for treatment of spinal cord injury

His advocacy resulted in the adoption of new legislation and guidelines to prevent spinal cord injury in hockey

His efforts led to the creation of the first acute spinal cord injury unit
in Canada

Served as top advisor to the Christopher Reeves
Spinal Cord Injury Foundation
and the Rick Hanson Foundation

Became the first Canadian to be appointed Chair of the Trauma Section of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

When Dr. Tator began to study spinal cord injury from a basic science perspective, he was exploring uncharted waters. Decades later, and as a result of his pioneering inspiration, Canada has become a world leader in the field. His clinical and basic research opened the door to new treatment and rehabilitation studies for the approximate 4,500 people in Canada who experience spinal cord injuries each year. Dr. Tator, however, knows that without a cure for spinal cord injury, more work needs to be done. Therefore, his legacy can also be felt in the programs and collaborations he established and the legislation he called for to prevent spinal cord injury. More recently, Dr. Tator’s research has made important inroads in our understanding of concussion disorders. His research continues to inform and focus public discussions about concussions.

Picture of Charles Tator


  • Dr. Tator Order of Hockey

    As a world-renowned expert on sport-related concussions and spinal cord injuries, Dr. Tator was named an Order of Hockey in Canada Honouree

    A long-time advocate for safety in Canadian minor hockey, Dr. Tator's work in combatting concussions in hockey is significant. Serving as the Director of the Canadian Sports Concussion Project at Toronto Western Hospital, his efforts to reduce spinal cord injuries suffered in hockey have been exemplary.

  • Tator, Charles Induction 2009

    Charles Tator inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Montreal, Quebec

  • The Canadian Brain and Nerve Health Coalition was established

    Public Health, Health Promotion & Advocacy

    The Coalition brings Canadian organizations together to promote increased research and public awareness of neurological conditions. Dr. Tator played a key role in its establishment and growth.

  • Dr. Tator held the Campeau Family Foundation Chair in Brain and Spinal Cord Research at the University of Toronto and Toronto Western Hospital

    He remained in this position until 2007.

  • Think First Canada Logo

    Dr. Tator founded ThinkFirst Canada

    Public Health, Health Promotion & Advocacy

    This organization educates young people about safety. Dr. Tator almost single-handedly promoted the prevention concept and established chapters of this organization throughout Canada.

  • Dr. Tator was appointed chair of the division of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto

    Health and Medical Education & Training

    During this time, Dr. Tator fostered the growth of Canada’s surgical scientist training program, believing that aspiring academic surgeons should train in science at the highest level. This program is admired by neurological departments across Canada.

  • Dr. Tator developed one of the first experimental models of spinal cord injury in small laboratory animals

    Brain & Mind

    This model provided scientists with tools to understand the functioning of the brain.

  • Dr. Tator demonstrated that post-traumatic ischemia is a major second injury mechanism after experimental spinal cord injury

    Brain & Mind

    This finding became a focus of his scientific study from 1973-2000.

  • Dr. Tator joined the Division of Neurosurgery at the Toronto Western Hospital

    In 1985, he became head of the division.


He took care of people and worked on what mattered to people.