Dr. Clyde Hertzman

Raised so far


Clyde Hertzman was regarded as a world expert in all aspects of early childhood development. A professor in the UBC School of Population and Public Health, the founding Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership, and a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Population Health and Human Development for over a decade, he was awarded the Order of Canada earlier this year in recognition of his incredibly influential research on early childhood development and population health.

Clyde was born in Vancouver. Growing up in Oakridge and being the son of a cardiologist and a biochemist, his natural inquisitiveness led to an interest in health. He attended medical school at McMaster University in Ontario during the 1970s, graduated in community medicine and began working in occupational and environment health. Early in his career Clyde was recruited to the population health program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and over the next twenty five years his research focused on questions related to the broader determinants of health and in particular on the importance of the early years. In 2000 Clyde pioneered the use of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) in BC, a population level tool that measures children’s development in kindergarten on five domains: social competence, emotional maturity, physical well-being, language and communication. With the EDI, Clyde and his colleagues demonstrated that over one-quarter of BC’s children were vulnerable in some aspect of their development and, importantly, that huge disparities existed across neighbourhoods. Some areas had vulnerabilities as high as 70% while others showed rates below 10%. For Clyde these were the “differences that made a difference” and he dedicated himself to uncovering and redressing the determinants of these inequities.

Use of the EDI has now spread to 80 percent of Canada’s kindergarten children and 15 countries. Supported by Clyde’s inspirational leadership, researchers, policy makers, teachers and community coalitions internationally are now using the EDI to advocate for policies and programs that will reduce childhood inequalities and improve every child’s life chances.

Clyde coined the term “biological embedding” to describe how environment and experience can alter a person’s biological development. Working with an international team of researchers he demonstrated that early childhood experiences leave a genetic “memory” affecting the expression of human genes. This research has helped to explain why adverse early experiences predict outcomes in adulthood, influencing health, learning and behavior throughout our life course.

Dr. Hertzman joined UBC in 1985. As the Founding Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership, he is remembered by his colleagues for his down-to-earth yet empowering style. He has been described by many as an “inspiration”, and by his colleagues at UBC as a “leader whose shoes can never be filled.” He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

The impact of your support

Family and friends of Dr. Clyde Hertzman have established the Clyde Hertzman Legacy Fund to support innovative investigation and community initiatives that contribute to the social and emotional development of young children. No other aspect of children’s development impacts so deeply on their life course. Social and emotional development in the early years prepares children to be self-confident, inquisitive, trusting, empathic, cognitively competent and capable of relating well to others. Dr. Hertzman increasingly understood this to be the core of human development.

The fund will be based on the principles embodied in Dr. Clyde Hertzman's work. These include:

fostering interdisciplinary “cell to society” investigation to increase our understanding of, and ability to, create environments where children can thrive;
connecting academic work with community mobilization and community development processes;
promoting evidence-based programming and educational tools for children and families; and
inspiring policies that reduce social inequalities in children's health and well-being.

Dr. Hertzman made a significant impact on the lives of thousands of people. This fund will honour his legacy by helping to ensure his work continues to change lives for the better, by providing needed support to those who share his vision: community leaders, researchers and students.

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