Medicine, A Running Shoe, and UBC

When one considers trends, especially those in which UBC plays a role, there is one piece of history, a story if you will, that has to be told. It involves the origins of three concepts that today we take for granted, that most of us feel have been around forever; that of jogging for health reasons, Sports Medicine and NIKE. Believe it or not, all three of these well known components of today’s society have a connection with UBC.
It all started in the early 1950s when a young Vancouverite, Doug Clement, accepted a track scholarship to the University of Oregon where his coach was Bill Bowerman, renowned for building Oregon into a national track power. Bowerman, ever the innovator, was also known for two major “discoveries.” First, he was the one who introduced to North America the concept of jogging for improved health, especially for issues surrounding the heart. It wasn’t until the 1950s that we would see people running solely for health reasons and Clement’s coach Bowerman was responsible for this fitness breakthrough. To accommodate this new reason for running, Bowerman introduced his second innovation. He invented a new running shoe to suit this new concept. With this special shoe design he partnered with one of his former runners, Phil Knight, and the multi-billion dollar shoe and apparel company NIKE was born – Bowerman and Knight its co-founders. In fact a silhouette of Bowerman can now be found on certain NIKE runners.
Meanwhile, Clement had graduated from Oregon returning to UBC for post graduate work. While at UBC he ran for UBC’s varsity track team competing for Canada at the Commonwealth Games and at two Olympics, 1952 and 1956.
But the essential link between Clement and Bowerman was that Bowerman not only served as his coach at Oregon but also as his mentor. “He is why I am in medicine” states Clement. Bowerman had a profound influence on this now UBC student having urged him to do more than just teach physical education which was Clement’s original intention, but to explore new territories, to explore medicine. This is exactly what Clement did, attaining a medical degree from UBC in 1959. And it was through Bowerman’s support and teachings that Clement not just practised medicine but introduced to this country a new “trend” within this profession, that being Sports Medicine. This third concept was born through Clement’s knowledge and interest in sport and exercise related issues which together with Bowerman’s influence resulted in the creation of the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre on the UBC campus.
The McGavin Centre which could be said originated with a mentor at Oregon and founded by Dr. Clement together with his UBC associates, has since been Canada’s Sports Medicine specialists – the original and largest of its kind. While at this iconic Centre, Clement directed this innovative medical practice plus taught and coached for seven years UBC’s varsity track team.
Jogging for health, NIKE and Sports Medicine can be traced back to a track coach in Oregon, cascading through Clement on to UBC and now to virtually the rest of the world. Maybe somewhere at UBC there should be a sculpture of a healthy heart, a healthy physique, and a NIKE running shoe!


Bowerman and the Oregon track team


Doug Clement (left)


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