October 1, 1929

(Toronto, Ontario)


February 13, 2015


MD, University of Toronto (1952)

DPhil, Oxford University (1955)

Awards & Honours:

2002: FNG Starr Award, Canadian Medical Association

1992: Gairdner Wightman Award

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Picture of John Evans, MD

Founded McMaster’s medical school and brought Canadian expertise to the world

Dr. John Evans

An institutional innovator and leader in medical education

Dr. Evans headed a team of young enthusiasts who in 1965 began to plan a revolutionary medical curriculum for the new medical school at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. When students entered the first year of the program in 1970, they were introduced immediately to patients as the focus and centre of their learning. The curriculum also gave students the freedom to learn at their own pace through self-directed learning methods, and made use of many advanced teaching techniques. Dr. Evans also played a prominent role in international health, conducting studies on ‘population based’ medicine for the Rockefeller Foundation, and served from 1979 to 1983 as director of the Population, Health and Nutrition Department of the World Bank, in Washington, D.C.

Key Facts

The McMaster model of medical education has been replicated around the world

Became the first Canadian to chair the Rockefeller Foundation

Served as chair of many organizations including, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and the Ontario Premier’s Health Review Panel

Co-founded MaRS, North American’s largest urban innovation hub

Awarded 12 Honorary Degrees

Member of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame and the U of T’s Sports Hall of Fame

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Dr. Evans’ revolutionary approach to medical education challenged students to do more than memorize, instead, they were asked to problem-solve. This capacity-building model has been replicated at many of the world’s leading medical schools and continues to inform medical training to this day. But Dr. Evans’ legacy is not left to one field alone. As a builder of health programs around the world, his impact is felt through the numerous public health initiatives he helped to establish as an advocate for the social determinants of health. Finally, JohnEvans’ leadership in medical innovation will carry his legacy for decades in untold directions as MaRS continues to advance our knowledge that we may better address the complex problems facing the world.

Picture of John Evans, MD


  • Dr. Evans, Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Sackett

    John Evans inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    London, Ontario

  • John Evans facilitated the creation of the Medical and Related Science Research District (MaRS) in Toronto

    Leadership in Organizational Development

    When it opened in 2000, Evans was appointed as its first chair.

  • The Canadian Foundation for Innovation was created

    Leadership in Organizational Development

    Dr. Evans was tasked by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien with the Foundation’s establishment and management.

  • Upon his return to Canada, Dr. Evans became chair and CEO of Alleix, one of Canada’s first biotechnology companies.

    He was responsible for taking the company public and remained there until 1990. Evans also served during this time as the chair of Torstar and Alcan Aluminum.

  • Health Sciences Archives, McMaster University 325 x 230

    Following an unsuccessful run at federal politics, Dr. Evans moved to Washington, DC.

    In Washington, he was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation to head its Commission on the Future of Schools of Public Health.

  • A few months later, Dr. Evans joined the World Bank.

    At the Bank, he established the Population, Health, and Nutrition Branch and advocated for a wider accepted of the social determinants of health.

  • Evans was appointed President of the University of Toronto.

    Returning to his alma mater, he ably steered the university through the challenges of fiscal restraint.

  • Health Sciences Archives, McMaster University 325 x 230

    The McMaster medical school was established

    Health and Medical Education & Training

    Known for his unorthodox ideas, Dr. Evans became the founding dean of McMaster’s new medical school. His famous boundless energy not only established a new school but also developed an entirely new pedagogical approach.

  • Dr. Evans joined the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto as an associate professor.

    He also worked as a cardiologist at the Toronto General Hospital. He remained in both positions until 1965.

  • Health Sciences Archives, McMaster University 325 x 230

    After graduating medical school, John Evans was awarded a Rhodes scholarship.

    He earned his DPhil and certified as cardiologist at Oxford. He then pursued post-graduate training in London, Boston and Toronto.


He was an innovator and builder who hand the ability to engage people.