November 17, 1934

(Chicago, Illinois)


May 13, 2015


MD, University of Illinois (1960)

Awards & Honours:

2009: Gairdner Wightman Award

2001: Officer of the Order of Canada

See All Awards
Picture of David Sackett

A founding father of clinical epidemiology

Dr. David Sackett

Clinical epidemiologist and pioneer of evidence-based medicine

As the founder of Canada’s first department of clinical epidemiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario in 1967, Dr. Sackett made significant contributions to how we measure the presence of diseases in populations, and in particular, how we assess the effectiveness of various forms of treatment. By employing precise models and innovative approaches, Dr. Sackett emphasized the importance of clinical trials and other forms of objective evidence in evaluating what the various possible forms of treatment accomplish, and how they can be made more effective for the patient’s benefit.

Key Facts

Championed the integration of epidemiology and statics within clinical disciplines in medical school

His textbook Clinical Epidemiology: A Basic Science for Clinical Medicine has gone through several editions and is a classic in the field

Became founding co-editor of the journal Evidence-Based Medicine

Appointed the first-chair of the Cochrane Collaboration—a group that has worked tirelessly to spread the principles of evidence based medicine around the world

Enhanced our understanding of patient and physician compliance and their influence on clinical outcomes

Highlighted the negative impact of disease labelling in hypertension

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Medicine today is practiced differently because of the impact of Dr. Sackett. Not afraid to challenge the status quo in the interest of better patient care, his implementation and advocacy of evidence based medicine has been imitated around the world. To take but one example, McMaster University’s Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact remains a thriving centre of EBM research, supporting topics such as tailoring hemophiliac treatment to individual patient needs, improving communication and shared decision making in the implementation of evidence based medicine, as well as analysis of high-risk groups.  

Picture of David Sackett


  • Sackett and company

    David Sackett inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    London, Ontario

  • Health Sciences Archives, McMaster University 325 x 230

    Sackett returned to Canada to establish the Trout Research and Education Centre

    There, Sackett focused on researching, writing, and teaching about randomised clinical trials.

  • Invited to join Oxford University, Sackett took EBM across the Atlantic

    He became a clinician at the John Radcliffe Hospital and Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine. While in England, he gave many talks about evidenced based medicine, which helped to spread its use across Europe.

  • Clinical Epidemiology by David Sackett

    The first edition of Clinical Epidemiology: A Basic Science for Clinical Medicine was published

    Evidence-based Medicine & Clinical Trials

    By its third printing, the textbook was considered “the bible of evidence based medicine.”

  • Health Sciences Archives, McMaster University 325 x 230

    David Sackett was invited to join the newly created medical school at McMaster University

    Health and Medical Education & Training

    In 1969, he received his first students.

  • After medical school, Sackett was drafted into the US Public Health Service

    While working at the Chronic Disease Research Institute in Buffalo, he developed an interest in making connections between epidemiology and clinical medicine.


He is colourful, enthusiastic and hopelessly optimistic.